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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


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

by Pam and Jim Murphy

Invergordon, Scotland -- Back to touring and the old faithful continental breakfast in the room. As we sail into Invergordon, the scenery is interspersed with oil rigs and the beautiful countryside - very green and picturesque.  At one point we pass a hill with white dots all over it - with binoculars we see that the white dots are sheep grazing (there are more sheep in Scotland than people).

We are greeted at Clyde Port, the port for Greenock, by a bagpiper complete with kilt and accessories. The Scottish bagpipe is unique in having three drones, and also by being used for military music by Scottish regiments. The sound of the bagpipe does carry - said to carry around 6 miles.  And the skirl of the pipes with their high penetrating notes could be heard above the noise of battle.

Invergordon is a very small town and is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Some of the buildings in the historical area are from the 16th century; there's a clock tower, Culloden Battlefield, and a prehistoric graveyard. At 8:00AM our tour for Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle leaves. In this port some tours have been cancelled due to not enough people signed up; the only other tour going is the  Dornoch and Glenmorangie one. For those not taking a tour, there is a shuttle bus provided to take you to the gate at the dock. They say that it is a 10-minute walk from there to the town of Invergordon.

Grain (barley) is grown in the Highlands for the malt whiskey -- 'paddy's (potatoes) are also grown. Horses are a popular pastime with the Highlanders. The Highlands are known for their distilleries, which are said to produce the finest single malt whiskeys.

Our first stop is in Beauly - a charming tranquil village known for its fantastic flowering displays during the summer. Here, we are given time to get off the bus and have a brief rest stop, with a little free time to wander around. At the center of town is the historic 13th century Priory that Mary Queen of Scots visited in 1564. There is an iron gate around it so the only view is through the iron rungs.  

Beauly is the home of the Fraser Clan, who came with William the Conqueror. Lord Lovett, was the head of the Fraser Clan and led a group of soldiers in World War II. The German's called them the 'Ladies from Hell' because they came on shore with their kilts. Jim has a friend with the last name of Fraser and he is busy taking photos with anything and everything with the name Fraser on it. Love this town with its profusion of flowers, plantings, and window boxes full flowers. We are here on a Sunday but my guess is that the tour arrives here too early for things to be open, even if it was a weekday.

We are in the Highlands, which are severely depopulated but comprise over two-thirds of the total area, providing most peoples' enduring image of Scotland. The dramatic landscapes are further enhanced by the volatile climate, producing an extraordinary variety of moods and colors. Here, we find some of the last wildernesses in Europe. The scenery on the ride from Beauly to Loch Ness is comprised of Bens (hills) and Glens (valleys) - birch, pine and rhododendrons are native to the area. The saltwater firth is a paradise for bird watchers; swans swimming, rose bay willow herb (seeds easily) growing in profusion and seals living on the rocks along the shoreline. This scenery is almost too good to be true! We drive through many small villages such as Dingwall with houses constructed of pink stone, Maryburgh and Druthy Duck (meaning thirsty duck) and Muir of Ord, where sheep are sold. We see the birthplace of Macbeth, our guide tells us that he was actually a good king and Lady Macbeth was a benevolent lady. Macbeth did kill Duncan but at that time it was a common practice. We pass a river with salmon jumping and see Highland cows, light brown in color with long horns, unique to the Highlands. Beaufort Castle, home of the Frasers, can be seen in the distance. The Fraser's still own much of the land in this area. At Clonkility Church we are shown the place that Lord Lovett used as an outdoor court, a round inclined area around a tree. Oh, and there are cows with their suckling babies and also a Shetland pony. We do get to see a little heather, but it is still a bit early for it to be in full bloom. In another week it will be covering the hills and I can only imagine how beautiful it will be. Heather is a very soft purple and Bell Heather is a deeper shade. Just to see this splendid scenery makes this tour more than worthwhile. We are very lucky to have such a clear day to be able to enjoy the great views.

We arrive at Loch Ness, home of the legendary monster. Loch Ness, the largest of the lochs, is covered in peat blackened water. It's 24 miles long and about one mile wide. Tales of monsters have been associated with the loch for many years. An inscription on a 14th century map tells of "waves without wind, fish without fins, islands that float", a description that has not been bettered by the many witnesses who have seen Nessie. Our guide tells us that the best way to see Nessie is through the bottom of a whiskey glass!

Tales of the monster date back at least as far as the seventh century, when it came out second best in an altercation with Saint Columba. However, the possibility that a mysterious prehistoric creature might be living in the loch only attracted worldwide attention in the 1930s, when sightings were reported during the construction of the road along its western shore and numerous appearances have been reported since. There have been around 1000 sightings over the last 40 years. Today bagpipers serenade the monster, zoologists deny that it could ever still exist, midget submarines search for it, nobody has conclusive proof one way or the other. Perhaps the mystery is more exciting than any scientific solution. The debate will continue. Whatever the answer, the location is magical. Perhaps the best viewing point is near the ruins of Urquhart Castle, by the light of a full moon

Jim goes down to the lake to explore the Castle Urquhart (pronounced "urkhurt") which, stands on a rocky promontory on the north shore of Loch Ness. It is quite a steep climb down to the castle and we are given the option of having the bus take us to the shops rather than going down to the castle. I decide to hit the shops for extra shopping time and will have the places somewhat to myself before the crowds of all the hordes from our numerous tour buses descend.  

When Jim sees the Castle Urquhart, he can't help thinking, "Well, if I were going to build a castle to survey this wide glen, and the loch itself, this is where I'd build it!"  The castle was at one time one of the largest castles in Scotland. Today, its ruins are scattered along the rocky promontory located on the banks of Loch Ness. This historical site has been occupied since as early as 2000 BC, with the castle being built in the 13th century.  Unfortunately, the castle was blown up in 1692 for fear it might fall into Jacobite hands. Some of the buildings, such as the gatehouse, the baileys and chambers, have been recreated.

Loch Ness cuts a great divide along what is called Glen Mor, or The Great Glen, a 60-mile fissure scoured by glaciers during the last ice age. The Loch itself is over 700 feet deep, and the nearby surrounding hills rise by about the same amount.  At the northeast end, where the waters of the loch flow along the River Ness through Inverness and into the North Sea, is the flatter and more fertile land of Moray. In 1228 the people of Moray rose up against the authority of King Alexander II (1198 - 1249). By 1230 he had put down the revolt and, as conquerors often do, established his own loyal men in charge of estates in the area. He granted his son-in-law Alan Durward the lordship of Urquhart, and it is almost certain that the earliest parts of medieval castle date from his time.

After his death in 1275 the castle passed to John Comyn, appointed by Edward I of England. After a series of humiliating defeats John Balliol (1250-1296) had relinquished his kingship, and much of Scotland and many of its castles, including Urquhart, were under English control. This was the time the Stone of Destiny was taken from Scone to London, and also the time that William Wallace began his campaign against English rule when he killed an English sheriff at Lanark. In 1297 Andrew Moray of Moray led a nighttime attack on the castle which failed, but sometime later Sir Alexander Forbes retook it for Scotland. But that wasn't the end of it; in 1303 Edward again took the castle, but his garrison under Alexander Comyn of Badenoch was soon annihilated by Robert the Bruce who was to be crowned King of Scotland in 1306.   

By 1346 ownership of the castle passed from the Earls of Moray back to the Scottish Crown again, and it seems likely that with Crown money much substantial building and repair was completed at this time. Throughout the end of the 1300's and well into the 1400's Castle Urquhart fell again and again to Clan MacDonald, Lords of the Isles only to be retaken again and again by the Crown. The only consequence was the suffering and devastation of the ordinary people living in the Great Glen. Eventually the MacDonald's power was temporarily curbed in this area and for about 35 years the Grants of Freuchie looked after the castle on behalf of the Gordons of Huntly. But soon the MacDonalds were back; in the 1500's they besieged it twice, again leaving the ordinary local inhabitants of the Glen dead and devastated. By the 1600's the castle was abandoned by the Grants and granted to the people of the Glen. Those walls, which had for so long been a cause of suffering to them, now became their comfort as they dismantled masonry and removed stones to build their own houses. Finally, in 1689 when the last Stewart King, James II of England and VII of Scotland, was exiled, one Captain Grant and 300 Highlanders saw off a force of James's supporters. The garrison left the ruins in 1692. The castle was not repaired and about 25 years later it was reported that a "Storme of Wind" had blown down the southwest side of the main tower house.

The shopping is great and happy am I! First go into a nice little shop right next to the Loch Ness Souvenir shop. I find some jewelry made with a stone produced from heather. It is set in silver and not terribly expensive. Pick up a few pieces as Christmas gifts. My real find here was a purse that is exclusively made for this shop by a local craftswoman. It is large, the size and shape of a small backpack done in black suede. It is trimmed with hand painted leather in a Celtic design and has a fastener of pewter Celtic design. Bought this for my daughter for Christmas. It is the type of bag that she loves and this is quite unique ($125). Then I went next door for souvenirs. Found children's books about Nessie and one The Story of Scotland.  Also picked up stuffed Nessies ($5-$10 and up), a Nessie key chain and pen as a gift and a pencil with a Nessie on top. Bought a few tee shirts for Jim, postcards and a box of shortbread. Skipping the close up view of the castle was a really good move for me, since once all of our tour buses arrived it was bedlam. They were only given limited time to shop and the lines were extremely long. Once again, I was able to count on Jim to find something that he just had to have! I don't say a word; just let him go, so he will do the same for me! This time he purchased a tam for himself. He had two choices, an expensive one or a cheap one that came with attached hair. He decides on the one with hair for his hat collection. Can't wait to get him to pose for a photo in this one! To my dismay, as soon as we get onto the bus, he pulls out his all-purpose Leatherman tool and removes the hair. Now the picture just won't be the same, but he does pose with it on! One more thing to add to his hat collection!

Our next stop is in Inverness (meaning "at the mouth of the River Ness"). Loch Ness becomes a river and then a canal. The canal was leaking and the townspeople wove course tweed and laid it on the bank, then covered the tweed cloth clay and pebbles. This seal is still holding! Inverness, with its suspension bridges across the River Ness and old stone buildings, is a pretty place, which is well known for its floral displays. In fact it won the 1996 award for Best Large Town in the Bloom of Britain competition. In December 2000, it was one of only 3 towns to be awarded city status by the Queen. The official ceremony took place on 19 March 2001. This historical, cosmopolitan city is the capital and transportation hub of the Highland region.  The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery exhibits items relating to the culture and customs of the region.

There has been a settlement here for at least 1500 years. The first stone castle was built in 1141. Even as late as Cromwellian times a fort was put up by soldiers between 1651 and 1657. Just outside the city is the site of the Battle of Culloden. On April 16, 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie lost his chance to regain the British throne. Culloden was the last major battle fought in Britain.  Of the 9000 soldiers under the Duke of Cumberland, only 76 died in the battle. Of the 5000 Highlanders, about 1200 died from a combination of the English cannons, the disciplined stand of the soldiers and the "take no prisoners" order given by Cumberland. There is a battle museum on the site, and memorials to the dead of both sides.

We cross the Caledonian Canal with its swing bridge, then continue on through a pretty park with numerous suspension bridges. The drive along the river is lovely and we see the Inverness Castle, with its red sandstone. The castle was built on the site of an earlier fortress in 1835 and sits on a low cliff overlooking the river. Today it houses the Sheriff's Court. At the castle there is a statue of Flora MacDonald. Flora helped Bonny Prince Charlie escape after the Battle of Culloden. She dressed him as a maid - it must have been an odd sight since he was over six feet tall! It is thought that the 11th-century castle which is featured in Shakespeare's play Macbeth (even though there is no historical evidence to suggest that it was where Duncan I was murdered) was in fact located to the east of the present castle (in what is now Auldcastle Road). Originally built of wood, it was replaced by a fortress of stone on Castle Hill. Apparently there have been sightings of the ghost of King Duncan walking along the banks of the River Ness in full regalia.

On the opposite bank of the river is Saint Andrew's Cathedral (minus its spires as the funds ran out before they could be completed). The font is a copy of Thorwalden's font in Copenhagen Cathedral. There are many old houses in the city center dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Built in 1791, the Steeple on the corner of Bridge Street and Church Street used to be the steeple of the old jail. Opposite, on the corner of Bridge Street and Castle Street is the Town House, with an interesting 19th century Gothic-style.

Our guide tells us that the shops will be closed since it is a Sunday. To my relief, he is wrong and many are open. We are only given a half an hour so there is really no time to do any serious damage. I stop at the Edinburgh Woolen shop and do get a sweater for my son in the Irish Aran Isle type of pattern. There was a special sale on this crew neck-pullover (20 pounds - under $30). Also, manage to pick up some postcards for my photo album. The bus is parked about a ten minute walk from the main part of town. With 20 minutes taken up walking to and from the bus, there are only ten minutes left to explore on our own. There is a lone bagpiper playing on the street.

By the time we return to the ship the Club Restaurant is closed; we are still able to get lunch at the Panorama Buffet. At 3:00 PM Scottish entertainers came on board. The show is lots of fun. There is young teen who plays the bagpipes, teen girls who dance the Highland Fling, and an older man and woman who sing and all are accompanied by an accordion player. Right after their performance they are quickly taken off the ship, so that we can sail. Once again, there is a bagpipe band to play for us as we leave the port.

This afternoon, Jim and I play trivia. Since we are only a team of two, we join a father and his adult daughter. Our knowledge seems to complement each other and we tie for first place with another team - our big prize for this amazing feat was a key-chain! After using so much brainpower, it was time to sit on the balcony and rest. This has to be the best part of cruising! We meet Kathy and John at 8PM for dinner at the Club -  I order sirloin steak. After dinner we all go to the lounge for an after dinner drink and a show by the Paramount Performers.

Edinburgh, Scotland -- Wake up to see the sunrise. Then it becomes overcast and drizzles - then it brightens once again with the temperature in the low 70s. Guess it will be a surprise as to what this day will bring. We arrive in Rosyth (the port for Edinburgh).

Our tour leaves bright and early and we are on our way to Edinburgh. Today there is no big choice to make on the tours; the city tour is a definite. For those not taking a tour there is a free shuttle to the train station at Inverkeithing. The train is recommended as the best way of getting into Edinburgh on your own.

We drive along the Firth of Forth. John Paul Jones sailed the Firth and we see an island that was used as a fortification against him. We see the Firth of Forth Railway Bridge, which took seven years to build and was completed in 1890. Our guide tells us that Fife is where you find the City of St. Andrew. This is the home of St. Andrew's Golf Course, the first golf course, that they have been playing golf on for 600 years.

Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-burra) has been called one of Europe's fairest cities, the Athens of the North, and the gateway to central Scotland, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. This distinction is partly an accident of nature, for the city is built upon extinct volcanoes atop an inlet from the North Sea (the Firth of Forth) and enveloped by rolling hills, lakes (lochs), and forests. However, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the works of a succession of distinguished Georgian and Victorian architects enhanced the natural geography. The result today is high drama; there are countless spots where Edinburgh looks less like a city and more like a theatrical backdrop. The view from Edinburgh's Calton Hill, across the River Forth to Fife, looks more like a scene from ancient Rome. Edinburgh incidentally, is named after Edwin, a king of ancient Northumbria. It has been a Royal Burgh since at least the twelfth century, and has been recognized as the capital of Scotland since the fifteenth. Edinburgh's face is her fortune, for it was this dramatic beauty which, in the first instance, made the Scottish capital's name familiar throughout the modern world. But there are other, less tangible factors involved, for Edinburgh is a city that delights the mind as well as the eye. It is a city where the past lives comfortably with the present. It is a gracious place, in the way that many other cities used to be. It is, indeed, the most popular tourist destination in Britain after London. From every hilltop another panoramic view unfolds. Edinburgh's sunsets are spectacularly romantic. Scots call the fading evening light the gloaming.

Edinburgh was once the cultural capital of the north, but it has lost that position to Glasgow. However, the lively capital is trying its best to regain its old reputation. The first buildings in Edinburgh were built near the Castle, for protection, but gradually they spread down the ridge to the east of the fortress. This is the Old Town, with elegant streets, cobbled alleys, lovely squares. The Old Town is where we are spending most of our time.

Our first stop is to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. As we all walk to the palace area, it begins to drizzle. After a few minutes, I start to look around. Not only do I not see Jim but also see no other familiar faces. I quickly catch on that I have followed the wrong group when I notice they aren't speaking English! Do you notice how quick I am? Sheepishly, I backtrack and find our group. Because there is only time for us to see the outside of Holyroodhouse, I am lucky that the group hasn't gotten too far. Our guide is a college professor and gives an extremely informative background of this site. Early in the 16th century, it was built by James IV adjacent to an Augustinian abbey David I had established in the 12th century. The nave of the abbey church, now in ruins, still remains, but only the north tower of James's palace is left. Most of what we see was built by Charles II after Scotland and England were united in the 17th century. The palace suffered long periods of neglect, though it basked in glory at the ball thrown by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the mid-18th century, during the peak of his feverish (and doomed) optimism about uniting the Scottish clans in their struggle against the English. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip reside here whenever they visit Edinburgh; when they're not in residence, the palace is open to visitors.

The old wing was the scene of Holyroodhouse's most dramatic incident. Her jealous husband, Lord Darnley, and his accomplices stabbed Mary Queen of Scots' Italian secretary, David Rizzio, 56 times in front of her eyes. A plaque marks the spot where he died on March 9, 1566. And one of the more curious exhibits is a piece of needlework done by Mary depicting a cat-and-mouse scene--of course her cousin, Elizabeth I, is the cat. Highlights of the palace are the oldest surviving section, King James Tower, where Mary Queen of Scots lived on the second floor, with Lord Darnley's rooms below. Some of the rich tapestries, paneling, massive fireplaces, and antiques from the 1700s are still in place. The Throne Room and other drawing rooms are still used for state occasions. In the rear of the palace is the richly furnished King's Bedchamber. The Picture Gallery boasts many portraits of Scottish monarchs by Dutch artist Jacob De Witt, who in 1684 signed a contract to turn out one potboiler portrait after another at the rate of one a week for 2 years. We are told that one shouldn't take all the portraits too seriously: Some of these royal figures may never have existed, and the likeness of some isn't known, so the portraits are from the artist's imagination. Behind Holyroodhouse begins Edinburgh's largest park, Holyrood Park. With rocky crags, a loch, sweeping meadows, and the ruins of a chapel, it's a wee bit of the Scottish countryside in the city.

There are a few free minutes to go into the shop here, where I find some miniature pewter Scottish military figures at a good price for the children on my list.  Also pick up a few postcards of the interior of the palace. Not having the time to go inside, I can see for myself what the guide was describing. Everyone has the same idea and the lines are long. Wouldn't you know that I am the last on the checkout line so am the last to get to the bus. Always find being the last embarrassing; this is my first time and will be my last (at least on this trip).

We leave Holyroodhouse to drive to Edinburgh Castle, taking a route that shows us the Old Town. The tour bus goes through Charlotte's Square; named after the wife of Mad King George III. This was the home of the rich, a typical 'upstairs-downstairs' living arrangement. It was home to doctors, philosophers, Dukes and Duchess and such famous people as Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Haig, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It is a charming area and has the old gaslights still lining the streets. Number seventeen Harriet Road is where Robert Louis Stevenson lived as a child. He didn't go to school and his nanny kept him entertained by telling him stories; he was a sickly child and spent most of his time in the house looking out his window to the park across the street. The island in this park was the inspiration for 'Treasure Island' (his nanny told him that the two boys digging in the park were looking for treasure.) This childhood home was the basis for many of the poems in his 'Child's Garden of Verses.' Each night he would watch for the lamplighter, which is reflected in his poem, 'The Lamplighter.'  Today there is another little boy who lives in this house and he often comes to the window to wave to the tourists.

At one time, the Flodden Wall surrounded the Old Town. Fragments of this protective wall may still be seen. We pass historic buildings such as the Old Royal High School and Old Surgeon's Hall, which are located in the area known as High School Yards and Surgeon's Square. This was the locality of the infamous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare.

One of the most gruesome crimes to take place in 19th century Scotland was that of the infamous grave robbers, William Burke and William Hare. By day, the two appeared as hardworking Irish immigrants: William Burke even rented out rooms to recent arrivals in Edinburgh. But by night, the pair lurked in dark corners of the city's ancient graveyards; digging up bodies of the recently departed to sell to anatomy instructors in Edinburgh's fast growing medical schools. In those days, Edinburgh was one of the major centers of medical education in Europe. But in early 19th century Scotland, obtaining human cadavers for medical research was not a simple matter. Laws that allowed the dissection of only one body per year restricted schools (it had to be the body of an executed criminal). Given the law of supply and demand, it was just a matter of time before someone found an illegal way of providing dead humans for dissection. Enter our two enterprising Irish immigrants, William Burke and William Hare. Smelling a profit, the two got together and cooked up a scheme to supply freshly dead bodies to the anatomy schools with "no questions asked". Burke and Hare were not alone. In fact, as far back as the early 1700s, there were complaints that bodies were being exhumed for the purpose of medical dissection. Burke and Hare were very successful grave robbers indeed. But success soon turned to greed and greed to murder. When they realized profits would increase with more dead bodies, they started murdering hapless victims in Edinburgh's Old Town with their own special form of strangulation and handed the corpses over to local anatomists. The anatomists who used Burke and Hare's services didn't ask many questions about the corpses that were brought to them at the medical school under the cover of darkness. It was only when suspicious neighbors starting asking about a missing Irish immigrant named Mrs. Docherty that the whole scheme began to unravel. Before long, the two grave robbers turned serial killers were up on charges of murdering the old lady and the whole of Britain was riveted to the grisly details of the trial throughout that Christmas and New Year season of 1828.  It will probably never be known how many of Burke's and Hare's unsuspecting victims ended up on the anatomy tables of Edinburgh's Medical Schools. They were suspected of murdering between 13 to 30 people, but there was never enough evidence to get a conviction on more than one body, that of the unfortunate Mrs. Docherty. When the case finally got to trial, Hare turned evidence against Burke, and Burke was found guilty of murder. He was executed on January 29, 1829 and his body was, you guessed it, donated to the Medical School for what they called "useful dissection".  Nearly two hundred years after his death, Burke's skeleton remains on display at the University's Medical School. 

Our next landmark is Brodie's Close. The close is named after Francis Brodie, a respectable craftsman, but it is his son and business partner, William Brodie, whom everyone remembers. Brodie, who lived in the eighteenth century, on the Royal Mile, was an outwardly respectable member of the Town Council. But he was also a gambler, a rake and, as was eventually revealed, a burglar as well. His nefarious career came to a climax in an abortive armed raid upon the Excise Office in the Royal Mile, and in 1788 William Brodie was publicly hanged just a few yards down the road from Brodie's Close. The final irony, it is said, was that the scaffold was an improved model he himself had invented.

We next pass Candlemaker Row in order to pay tribute to Greyfriars Bobby at the monument erected not long after his death.  In 1858, this faithful terrier followed the funeral procession of his master, John Gray, to nearby Greyfriars Churchyard and refused to leave afterwards. Bobby lived for a further 14 years and never wandered very far from the churchyard. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh undertook to pay for Bobby's license, and the dog collar, suitably engraved, is still to be seen to this day in Huntly House Museum, in the Canongate.  The epitaph on Bobby's grave reads, "Let his devotion be a lesson to us all."  Why am I not surprised to find a pub called Greyfriars Bobby at this site?

Candlemaker Row, by the way, is a convenient route by which to reach the Grassmarket, an interesting historic square noted today for its antique shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. Robert Burns and William Wordsworth were amongst those who once found lodgings in the White Hart Inn on the north side of the Grassmarket. The site of the Beehive has had hostelries upon it for at least 500 years. On High Street is St Giles' Cathedral with its open "crown" spire, a famous landmark in the city. The present building belongs mainly to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and its interior is superior to its restored exterior. As the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is both the local parish church and the place of worship employed on national occasions. The Thistle Chapel is used by members of the Order of the Thistle, the premier order of chivalry of Scotland, of which her Majesty the Queen is Sovereign Member and attends the installation of new members. Besides St Giles is the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh where the Royal Proclamations are made in Scotland's Capital.

The most picturesque house on the High Street section of the Royal Mile is John Knox's House. Built towards the end of the fifteenth century, it is said to have been occupied by John Knox, the famous Protestant reformer, during the period 1561-72.  Knox was the minister of St Giles', and delivered many a thundering sermon there in the presence of, and much to the discomfiture of, the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. John Knox's House, which was saved from the demolition men many years ago by the Protestant Society, has hand-painted ceilings. It is entered by forestairs, a once common architectural feature on the Royal Mile, but of which there are now few surviving examples. Near the door is one of the street wells, which at one time were the only source of water in the neighborhood.

We arrive at Edinburgh Castle, which is our last point of interest on this tour. The wind starts to blow up and a jacket is definitely needed. We leave the tour since we plan to remain in Edinburgh, and take the train back to the ship. Viewing the castle is on one's own. From these battlements, we can immediately appreciate the dramatic topography of Edinburgh, situated between sea and hills. No place in Scotland is filled with as much history, legend, and lore as Edinburgh Castle, one of the highlights of our visit to Scotland.  

It's believed the ancient city grew up on the seat of a dead volcano, Castle Rock. The early history is vague, no one is sure who first used the castle rock as a settlement, but it was long before the Romans sailed up the firth and landed at Cramond. It is known that in the 11th century Malcolm III (Canmore) and his Saxon queen, later venerated as St. Margaret, founded a castle on this spot. The only fragment left of their castle, in fact the oldest structure in Edinburgh, is St. Margaret's Chapel, built in the Norman style. The oblong structure dating principally from the 12th century and left standing for more than 900 years has survived all the sieges and bombardments to which the fortress on the rock was subjected during that period. On several occasions the castle was razed - but the demolishers invariably spared the chapel of the good St Margaret because of its religious significance. Today, members of the castle garrison still have the right to be  married within the Chapel.

At the entrance of the Castle there are guards posted. There are two interesting statues, one of William Wallace (Braveheart) and the other of Robert The Bruce (King of the Scots from 1306-1329). Nearby there are also statues of a lion and a horse in a chess board style. The State Apartments, include Queen Mary's Bedroom, where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland (later James I of England). Scottish Parliaments used to convene in the Great Hall, which now houses weapons and armor. The Hall was built for King James IV (1488-1513) as a majestic setting for ceremonial occasions.

The Crown Chamber, houses the Honors of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels), used at the coronation of James VI, along with the scepter and sword of state of Scotland. With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, King James of Scotland acceded to the English throne, uniting the two kingdoms. Therefore the panoply of the Scottish monarchy exists in a form separate from the English Crown Jewels. It is not known exactly how old the crown is; James V remodeled it in 1540. It is accepted that it is made from Scottish gold from the Crawford Moor mine, actively worked at this time. And it is believed that the craftsmanship is French. The Scepter was a gift from the Pope to James IV in 1494. James V, who seemed to have liked jewelry and even added his initials to the scepter, also remodeled it. The globe of the scepter is a cut and polished rock crystal, with a Scottish pearl on top. The Sword of State was another gift from another pope to James IV in 1507. A fine example of craftsmanship, it came complete with sword belt and a consecrated hat. The blade of the sword is a meter long.

Following the Treaty of Union in 1707, the ancient crown jewels of Scotland "disappeared for a century, nobody knew what had happened to them. Rumors circulated that the English had removed them to London. In 1818 Sir Walter Scott obtained permission from the Prince Regent (later George IV) to search Edinburgh castle for the Royal Scottish regalia. The searchers eventually found them locked in an oak chest, covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in 1707.

Also housed in the Crown Chamber is the Stone of Destiny, Scotland's most potent symbol of nationhood, which was once broken when briefly, liberated from England.  Currently occupying a place of honor, the stone is reputed to have been Jacob's Pillow at Bethel. It is today used in the coronations of all British monarchs.  In ancient times, though, it was an exclusively Scottish treasure, until taken by force of arms by Edward, the Hammer of the Scots, in 1297.

Nearby is the Scottish National War Memorial, a building designed and created shortly after the First World War; many who enter find the experience a moving one. There is a casket here, with a list of all the names of the dead soldiers from the Great War.

The French Prisons were put to use in the 18th century, and these great storerooms housed hundreds of Napoleonic soldiers in the early 19th century. Many of them made wall carvings that can be seen today. Among the batteries of cannons that protected the castle is Mons Meg, a 15th-century cannon weighing more than 5 tons. Edinburgh Castle is also the home of the One O'Clock Gun. This is fired every day except Sunday at precisely 1.00PM to provide everyone with an accurate check for his clocks and watches. It is said to certainly startle you if you are anywhere near the Castle at that moment!

The Castle Esplanade is the venue of the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the annual occasion on which, over a period of three weeks in August, the Army presents a lively program of music, marching and historical reenactments under floodlights before large and appreciative audiences. I notice that the tickets for the Military Tattoo are sold out for this evening.

There is a gift shop at the castle and I purchase a couple of children's books, a sticker book of Scotland, and also one about Greyfriars Bobby.

Upon leaving the castle we stroll along the Royal Mile.  Edinburgh's Royal Mile (it is actually one mile and 107 yards from the entrance to Edinburgh Castle to the gates of the Palace of Holyrood House) is not only a popular tourist attraction but also provides a fascinating insight into the history of the City and of Scotland itself.  It was described by Daniel Defoe as the "Largest, Longest and Finest Street in the World."

We stop at Lady Stair's House. This 1622 house takes its name from a former owner, Elizabeth, the dowager Countess of Stair. Today, it's a treasure trove of portraits, relics, and manuscripts relating to three of Scotland's greatest men of letters--Robert Burns (1759-96), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94). The Burns collection includes his writing desk, rare manuscripts, portraits, and many other items. Also on display are some of Sir Walter Scott's possessions, including his pipe, chess set and original manuscripts. The museum holds one of the most significant Stevenson collections anywhere, including personal belongings, paintings, photographs, and early editions.

There are lots of wonderful shops along the Royal Mile and I would recommend saving major shopping for Edinburgh. I come across a store where they carry Scottish Woolen Sweaters that are geared to the younger crowd. The styles are more youthful than I have seen and these are the first sweaters that are a style that my daughter and daughter-in-law will wear. I buy them the same sweater ($60) but in different colors (one in grayish blue and the other in a heather red), a short length fitted cardigan with a collar. At Pringle's I get each of the girls a Pashmina shawl (about $70) on sale at a good savings. My last purchases of the day are postcards and another box of shortbread to snack on -- the last box was sooo good.

As we wander further down the Royal Mile we run into the performers from the Edinburgh Festival. The Edinburgh Festival is perhaps the greatest arts festival in the world.  From mainstream events to its famous Fringe, the festival offers a whirl of drama, comedy, music and social events. The Edinburgh Festival, billed as the world's largest arts jamboree, was founded in 1947, and now attracts artists of all descriptions for three weeks in August and September. The show is, in fact, a multiplicity of festivals, with the official program traditionally presenting uncontroversial highbrow fare, while the frenetic Fringe offers a melange of just about everything else in the field of the performing and visual arts.  

Most of the performers we saw were young people and so full of energy. There was one young man advertising his play by sleeping on the sidewalk covered with a blanket while others passed out flyers. Another group was from Belorussia and they had the most outlandish colorful costumes and were singing and dancing, not good at all but fun to watch. There was a group from Ireland and they were promoting a play about the nuns and Catholic schooling. Some girls were dressed as nuns and others as Catholic schoolgirls. They offered to take a photo with us and to line the girls up, the nuns would call, "Photos girls!" and they all came running. The street was just loaded with entertainers and this was am atmosphere of  fun.

We walked down by Princes Street and the Gardens. As the New Town grew, the city fathers decided to turn the area below Edinburgh Castle into the Princes Street Gardens, now one of the city's main beauty spots. The area was once Nor Loch, a body of water in the city center, but it was drained to make way for a railway line. (When it was still a bog, the great philosopher David Hume fell into it, couldn't remove himself, and called for help from a passing woman. She recognized him, pronounced him an atheist, and wouldn't offer her umbrella to pull him out of the mire until he recited the Lord's Prayer.) The gardens' chief landmark is the Scott Monument, though many find the summer flowers an even bigger attraction. The Scott Monument looks more like a church spire than a monument to a writer; the Gothic-inspired Scott Monument is Edinburgh's most famous landmark, completed in the mid-19th century. In the center of the 200-plus-foot spire is a large seated statue of Sir Walter Scott and his dog, Maida, with Scott's heroes carved as small figures in the monument.

We consider stopping at Deacon Brodie's Pub for lunch but at this point we are tired and I am shopped out (can you believe it?) so returning to the ship seems to be the thing to do. Coming up the steps from Princes Street we run into a couple of young men who are coming up by hopping on one foot. Don't think there was ever a time when I could have done that! We ask them for directions to the train station and they are so nice and helpful. Walking to the train station we run into another group of young people who get all excited when they find out that we are Americans. Chatted with them for a few minutes and then arrive at our destination.

Jim goes to buy our train tickets while I find a liquor store where I buy a variety of those small bottles of the local single malt scotch for more stocking stuffers. We go out to the train platform where we run into several other people from the ship. None of us is quite sure which train to take, but we know that we are in the right spot. We all board and hope that this is the right train. The train is a great way to experience the local feel of Edinburgh and it's surrounding area.  

We cross the Firth of Forth Railway Bridge, something to experience. In the late 1800s, a railway bridge across Scotland's Firth of Tay swayed and collapsed in the wind. Seventy-five passengers and crew on a passing night train died in the crash. It was the worst bridge disaster in history. So when engineers proposed bridging the even wider Firth of Forth, the Scottish public demanded a structure that looked like it could never fall down. They got it. Chief engineers Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker came up with the perfect structural solution: a cantilever bridge. The Firth of Forth Bridge is made of a pair of cantilever arms, or beams "sticking out" from two main towers. Diagonal steel tubes projecting from the top and bottom of the towers support the beams. These well-secured spans actually support the central span. This design makes the Firth of Forth Bridge one of the strongest, and most expensive, ever built. But not everyone liked the design. The poet and artist William Morris declared it "the supremest specimen of all ugliness." Ugly or not, the Firth of Forth is a safe bridge. Even today, the highest winds barely shake this enormous structure. This is exactly what the people of Scotland needed after the Tay Bridge disaster. Unfortunately, a cantilever of this size comes with a hefty price tag. This is why very few like it have ever been built again.

After a wonderful train ride (gives us chance to see more of the country) we finally arrive (to our great relief) at our stop at Inverkeithing. Our shuttle bus is waiting and we have a good climb, which we have to do quickly to catch it. It is only a matter of minutes before we are back at the ship. Once on board it starts to pour! All the restaurants are closed, except for the pizza place (open until 4:00), so pizza it will be for lunch.

Return to the cabin and do a bit more packing. Will complete the task during our day at sea tomorrow.  Have a little rest time where I go down to see the photograph that the ship photographer took today in Edinburgh. Have a feeling that with the weather, our shots may not be the clearest. Buy a few just in case. Jim and I go to Horizons again to try for a pre dinner drink. They are still slow but we do get served after about 15-20 minutes.  

We meet Kathy and John at the Italian Restaurant. I order seafood risotto--delicious. On past Renaissance cruises we have always preferred the Club to the Italian or Grille Restaurants. However, on this cruise we seem to find the Italian and Grille better. Kathy and John did Edinburgh on their own and enjoyed the day. They took the city hop on hop off bus tour but did say that the commentary was with headphones and not as comprehensive as they would have liked. The line to enter Edinburgh Castle was extremely long and they weren't able to see it. They ate lunch at a place called the Mussel Inn on Rose Street and raved about it. This restaurant was recommended highly by Clodogh and was the only place that she recommended on the whole cruise. They ordered a dish of mussels covered with cheese and said it was to die for. They ran into a lot of other of the ship's passengers that were also eating there.

I am personally glad that we booked the tour since I feel that this one was very thorough and that our tour guide was wonderful. The tour covered all the major sites that we wanted to see plus gave us the opportunity to remain in town and see things on our own. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and I do have to say that it is one of my favorite ports. The weather has totally cleared and it is a perfect night to sit out on the balcony and read - my favorite thing!  I put the 'Privacy Please' sign on the door so that we can sleep in. Don't even set the alarm!

TUESDAY, August 14
At Sea -- We wake up 8:45, to another cool and rainy day. I was really hoping for the sun!  I can always hope that it will clear before the end of the day. This seems to be the norm for this part of the world. They tell you to always have an umbrella with you. This is definitely one itinerary where a fold up umbrella is a must. I also have kept a light nylon windbreaker with me at all times. It doesn't take up a lot of space in the tote bag I carry and has been a big help with the changing weather systems.

The Club is open until 9:30 and if we rush we may just be able to have a nice sit down breakfast. We make it with even a little time to spare. Passengers are all pouring in later this morning. We are seated with two other couples and thoroughly enjoy the company, relaxation and pampering. Spend the rest of the morning finishing the packing. To my amazement we fit it all in but with VERY heavy suitcases.  Dread having them weighed at the airport!

Jim went to the debarkation talk and got all of the instructions. Since our last cruise with Renaissance they have changed the way that they deal with tipping. They now add the tips to your shipboard account and you have to do nothing. Not a bad idea since we hate dealing with the money matters while on vacation. However, now to tip less than Ren's recommended amount (which is high by industry standards) you need to physically go and request having it lowered. On past cruises we heard a lot of grumbling about the tipping from other passengers and many of them said that they were not giving what was being asked. It is easier to submit a lesser amount than to have to physically go and change what has already been added to the account. My guess is that for most people this is difficult to do. So now the crew is getting the tips they hope for.

We have lunch at the Panorama Buffet - OK but not great. The sun has finally come out and now that the packing is done I have the whole afternoon to sit outside with my feet up.

Tonight we have diner at the Grille. The salmon was so good the last time, that I order it again and enjoy it every bit as much. Jim's potato is cold and his meat has a mushy consistency. All we have to do is mention it and they immediately ask what else he would like and it is served quickly. This is the first problem that we have ever had with the meals on Renaissance and to their credit they rectify the situation with grace. The only little problem is that Jim gets it in his head that they may have spit in his food because he complained. (Think he has been listening to too many of those restaurant horror stories!) He eats none of it. Now the dilemma he is facing is how he is going to hide his meal from the waiter, who so graciously brought him this replacement. Oh, for a dog begging at his feet! At the same time Kathy and I look at his plate and burst out laughing. He has draped his napkin over the food to hide it -- makes me think of a little kid, not knowing what to do with his uneaten meal! He sits here so smug, feeling ever so clever! Now for the best part. Big surprise -- the waiter takes his plate and removes the napkin to stack the plates. He is caught red handed! The waiter then asks, with great concern, if there was something wrong with this meal and would he like something else? At this point, Jim starts babbling about not being hungry! Kathy, John and I can barely keep a straight face!

The show tonight is wonderful, a mix of all the performers that we have seen. Lots of energy and talent. One of the crew tells us that we had a close call. A small vessel almost hit us. Thankfully, our captain handled the situation and all was well. Still a beautiful night so I go back on the balcony with my book and am feeling totally relaxed.

WEDNESDAY, August 15
Copenhagen, Denmark -- This morning is cloudy but it does appear that the sun is trying to break through. We had no breakfast order cards to put on the door last night so Jim goes to the early riser's breakfast and brings back coffee and croissants. It is hard to believe that today is our last day of touring and that this fabulous cruise is coming to an end. We have an early morning departure for our Copenhagen City tour and harbor cruise. The sun is shining brightly and we are going to have a beautiful day! Perfect way to end the cruise!

Copenhagen, comes from the word Kopenhavn, which means "merchant harbor." The city is made up of 406 islands. Copenhagen's position between Denmark and Sweden with entrance to the Baltic Sea has contributed to making it the largest city in Scandinavia and the capital of Denmark. It also happens to be the oldest kingdom in the world, with origins in Viking culture.

Over the centuries Copenhagen has suffered more than its share of disasters. In the 17th century the Swedes repeatedly besieged it, and in the 18th century it endured the plague and two devastating fires. The British attacked twice during the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s. Its last major disaster occurred in 1940 when the Nazis invaded Denmark and held it in their grip until 1945 when the British army moved in again, this time as liberators.

Copenhagen is a city with much charm, as reflected in its canals, narrow streets, and old houses. Its most famous resident was Hans Christian Andersen, whose memory still lives on.  Another of Copenhagen's world-renowned inhabitants was Soren Kierkegaard, who used to take long morning strolls in the city, planning his next addition to the collection of essays that eventually earned him the title, "father of existentialism."

Copenhagen still retains some of the characteristics of a village. If you forget the suburbs, you can cover most of the central area on foot, making it a great place to visit. It's almost as if the city was designed for strolling, as reflected by its Stroget, the longest and oldest pedestrians-only street in Europe.

Copenhagen seems to have several distinct images, each accurate but incomplete. It's an old merchants' town overlooking the entrance to the Baltic Sea; a progressive city tolerant of a wide range of social behavior; a metropolis whose efficiency rivals that of its Swiss counterparts; and a city with so many architectural treasures that it's known as the "City of Beautiful Spires."  Put together, these images and it makes a truly memorable picture.  This is our second visit to the city and I am thrilled to have the chance to to visit it again.

Our first adventure in Copenhagen is a harbor cruise. The passengers of all the ship's tour buses board the same tour boat. There is a long line of people waiting to get on, but Jim decides to enter over the side and gets himself a wonderful seat in the sun. Once he does this everyone else follows suit and the boat is boarded in the blink of an eye!  

The cruise gives a fantastic view of the city from the water. I personally find the commentary lacking and difficult to hear, but I'm not sure that others feel the same. Some of the landmarks, which are pointed out to us are Our Savior's Church, topped by a 311 ft spiral steeple which affords breathtaking views over the city; the Royal Danish Naval Museum, where you can see over 300 model ships and naval knick-knacks from the last couple of centuries, the Borsen (Stock Exchange), with its steeple of three intertwined alligator tails representing Denmark, Sweden and Norway; the Library (called the Black Diamond because it glitters in the sun.) We also pass the self-labeled 'progressive' community of Christiania. Christiania started life as a military camp before being abandoned and taken over in 1971 by ambitious squatters who proclaimed their own 'free state'. Though it never achieved full independence and wrestled for a while with the inevitable consequences of unrestricted hard-drug use, Christiania still enjoys status as a rent and tax-free enclave and a lively, arts-soaked environment. The highlight of the cruise is seeing Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), the one statue everybody wants to see in Copenhagen. The life-size bronze, of Den Lille Havfrue, was inspired by H. C. Andersen's, The Little Mermaid, one of the world's most famous fairy tales.  Edvard Eriksen sculpted the statue, unveiled in 1913, which rests on rocks right off the shore. In spite of its small size, the statue is just as important a symbol to Copenhageners as the Statue of Liberty is to New Yorkers or Big Ben is to Londoners. Tragedy struck on January 6, 1998. An anonymous tipster called a freelance television cameraman in the middle of the night to check out the four-foot bronze Mermaid. She'd lost her head. Most of the city responded with sadness. "She is part of our heritage, like Tivoli, the Queen, and stuff like that," said local sculptor, Christian Moerk. The Mermaid was last decapitated on April 25, 1964. The culprits at that time were never discovered, and the head was never recovered. In the early 1900s some unknown party or parties cut off her arm. The original mold exists so it's possible to recast the bronze and weld back missing body parts. The arm was replaced. Although not taking blame for the last attack in 1998, the Radical Feminist Faction sent flyers to newspapers to protest "the woman-hating, sexually fixated male dreams" allegedly conjured by the statue's bronze nudity. After the last decapitation, the head turned up mysteriously at a TV station, delivered by a masked figure. In the spring, welders put her head back on, making the seam invisible. Today the Little Mermaid, head, fishy tail, and all is back to being the most photographed nude woman in Copenhagen.

Today couldn't provide better weather for us to enjoy this cruise, with the warm sun and cool breeze. This is the perfect way to see 'Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen'! We reboard our coach and take a panoramic tour of the city and pass Tivoli Gardens. Then it is on to Christianborg Palace. This granite-and-copper palace, located on Slotsholmen -- a small island that has been the center of political power in Denmark for more than 800 years -- houses the Danish parliament, the Supreme Court, the prime minister's offices, and the Royal Reception Rooms. Before we enter we are asked to put on soft overshoes to protect the floors. Our tour guide leads us through richly decorated rooms, including the Throne Room, Banqueting Hall, and the Queen's Library. Under the palace are the well-preserved ruins of the 1167 castle of Bishop Absalon, founder of Copenhagen. One room has walls covered in recently woven tapestries done in vivid colors.  Most tapestries are done in muted shades and these bright colors make the tapestries unique. They were a gift to Queen Margrethe and make for a stunning colorful room. The tapestries reflect the history of Denmark. There is one of special interest to me that is of the 20th century. Another of the tapestries depicts Queen Margrethe handing an apple to her husband, sort of an Adam and Eve type thing. I look at the tapestry and swear that they made the Queen look like a man in drag and not an attractive one either. I asked the tour guide about how the Queen felt about this unflattering image of her. Our tour guide is a bit abrupt and definitely lacking in the social graces. She immediately goes into a bit of a tirade, lecturing me about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. I don't care what you consider beautiful, the Queen looks downright ugly! I do start to feel badly, thinking that perhaps the Queen is truly an ugly woman and I may have offended the guide. Later we see a portrait of Queen Margrethe and she is a beautiful 60-year-old woman. So my question stands, "Why did they show her as ugly?" At this point Kathy and I ask the guide if we can be dropped off in the  city before the tour returns to the ship. She tells us no (and none too nicely), because we will miss too much of the tour. On questioning her further (we aren't easy to intimidate), we find that all that is left of the tour is to see the outside of Amalienborg Palace and then to drive back to the ship with a stop for a close up view of "The Little Mermaid." The tour stops near Amalienborg Palace for a rest stop. We decide at this point to leave the tour. I can't stand the guide and we know that we can get a cab back to the ship, which is within walking distance of  "The Little Mermaid". Another annoying thing about this particular guide is that she does her best to avoid answering questions. She seems to have a pat speech memorized and doesn't have the information to go much further.

Amalienborg Palace consists of four 18th-century French-style rococo mansions opening onto one of the most attractive squares in Europe. Amalienborg has been the home of the Danish royal family since 1794 when Christiansborg burned. We come to the palace ahead of the rest of the tour group, giving us the opportunity to witness the changing of the guard at noon (this happens when the royal family is in residence.) The rest of the group misses this. I'm glad that we went off on our own! A swallowtail flag on the mast signifies that the queen is in Copenhagen, and not at her North Zealand summer home, Fredensborg Palace. The Royal Life Guard in black bearskin busbies (like the hussars) leaves Rosenborg Castle at 11:30AM and marches along Gothersgade, Norre Voldgade, Frederiks-borggade, Kobmagergade, Ostergade, Kongens Nytorv, Bredgade, Sankt Annae Plads, and Amaliegade, to Amalienborg. After the event, the guard, still accompanied by the band, returns to Rosenborg Castle via Frederiksgade, Store Kongensgade, and Gothersgade. (Rosenborg Palace, built in the 17th century by the "Builder King," Christian IV, houses the Danish Crown Jewels.)

In 1994 some of the official and private rooms in Amalienborg were opened to the public for the first time. The rooms reconstructed to reflect the period 1863-1947, all belonged to members of the reigning royal family, the Glucksborgs, who ascended the throne in 1863. The highlight is the period devoted to the long reign (1863-1906) of Christian IX (1818-1906) and Queen Louise (1817-98). The items in his study and her drawing room, gifts from their far-flung children, reflect their unofficial status as "parents-in-law to Europe." Indeed, the story of their lives has been called "the Making of a Dynasty." Both came from distant sides of the then-heirless royal family to create a true "love match." The verses for their 1842 wedding song (a Danish tradition) were written by none other than Hans Christian Andersen. Christian and Louise gave their six children a simple (by royal standards) but internationally oriented upbringing. One daughter, Alexandra, married Edward VII of England; another, Dagmar, wed Tsar Alexander III of Russia. The crown prince, who became Frederik VIII, married Louise of Sweden-Norway; another son became king of Greece, and yet another declined the throne of Bulgaria. In 1905 a grandson became king of Norway. In the 1880s members of the Danish royal family, numbering more than 50, got together regularly each summer at the Fredensborg Palace, north of Copenhagen. The children, now monarchs in their own right, brought Christian IX and Louise presents, works of art from the imperial workshops and from jewelers such as Fabergé, as well as souvenirs, embroideries, and handcrafts made by the grandchildren. All became treasures for the aging king and queen, and many are exhibited in the museum rooms today. Also open to the public are the studies of Frederik VIII and Christian X. Thanks to his marriage to Louise of Sweden-Norway, the liberal-minded Frederik VIII (1843-1912), who reigned from 1906 to 1912, had considerable wealth, and he furnished Amalienborg Palace sumptuously. The king's large study, decorated in lavish neo-Renaissance style, testifies to this. The final period room in the museum is the study of Christian X (1870-1947), the grandfather of Margrethe II, who was king from 1912 to 1947. He became a symbol of national resistance during the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. Along with the period rooms, a costume gallery and a jewelry room are open to the public.
Our next stop is to Nyhavn (New Harbor) where we find an outdoor café for lunch. This is a beautiful spot right on the water. The houses and cafes in the area are very picturesque. This area is a hub of activity and while having lunch, we are entertained by a man who reminds me of candid camera. He has a leash that he attaches to people walking by and once they discover him their reactions are priceless. He squirts water at unsuspecting people and then stands next to them looking up at the sky as if it is raining. After about 20 minutes of watching his hilarious antics, he passes the hat. This show was well worth a donation! We order smorgasbord (open faced sandwiches) with large shrimp on them--very good! And of course, how could we be in Copenhagen and not have a Carlbergs beer with our sandwiches?

With our stomachs full it is time to get down to some serious shopping. From here we go into the House of Amber. Kathy buys several pendants here. I look but don't find what I am looking for. Our next stop is to the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Shop. I am hoping to find the rest of a set of Hans Christian Andersen plates that I started on our last visit here. However, they no longer are making them, so will have to be satisfied with what I have. We walk along the Stroget (Stoy-et), the pedestrian shopping street; Copenhagen's oldest and longest.  About a mile long it is filled with restaurants and places of interest.  In Danish, the word stroget means, "to stroll"--and that's exactly what all born-to-shop addicts (like me) do along this stretch, from Radhuspladsen to Kongens Nytorv.

I stop in a small jewelry shop and am able to get the type of amber necklace and earrings that I have been looking for ($70), for a friend. Another thing that I am especially looking for are these Danish wine openers, foil cutters and bottle stoppers that we bought last time we were here. They work wonderfully and will make perfect gifts for some of the men on our Christmas list. Do find them in the Henkel shop (opener about $38 and full set $100).

As we near the far end of the Stroget we come to a square where there is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen.  His knee is actually shiny and bright from the rubbing of people sitting on his lap. We then arrive at Tivoli (this is said to be the prototype for Walt Disney's theme parks). Jim and I have been here before but are still looking forward to seeing it again. Since it opened in 1843, this 20-acre garden and amusement park in the center of Copenhagen has been a resounding success. It features thousands of flowers, a merry-go-round of tiny Viking ships, games of chance and skill (pinball arcades, slot machines, shooting galleries), and a Ferris wheel of hot-air balloons and cabin seats. There's even a playground for children. An Arabian-style fantasy palace, with towers and arches, houses more than two dozen restaurants in all price ranges, from a lakeside inn to a beer garden. There is a tiny lake with ducks, swans, and boats. We find no plastic or neon in Copenhagen's fairy-tale Garden. The first time we were here it was in the evening and the daytime does not compare; part of the magic is all the lights twinkling throughout the park. The oldest building at Tivoli, the Chinese-style Pantomime Theater with its peacock curtain, stages pantomimes in the evening. The evening also provides bands playing, a variety of shows, and late at night, fireworks displays. This afternoon it is a bit quieter than last time but still fun. We stop at a sidewalk café for a drink. Before leaving, Kathy and I make a stop at the gift shop. My only purchases are a couple of Tivoli coloring books and Kathy also buys one for her grandson. Oh yes, and of course postcards! At Tivoli we get a cab and are dropped off at the statue of the Little Mermaid. There are tourists all around taking photos.  Some are even climbing down the rocks to  pose right next to her.

We walk back to the ship (not far at all). There is a pretty Marina in this area and a huge statue of a bear. I'm not quite sure what it represents. The ship is docked right near many very nice shops. Kathy and I take time to browse in them. Purchase an amber necklace for my niece and a couple of pairs of amber earrings as gifts. I also pick up a couple of tee shirts for Jim.

Upon boarding the ship we have just enough time to clean up and have a short rest before meeting Kathy and John at the Club bar for a drink. Dinner tonight is at the Club and I order the Chicken Saltimbaca. Fine, but not my favorite of the meals. After dinner Jim goes off the ship for his last cigar with his flask of B&B. I spend the rest of the evening enjoying the balcony one last time.

THURSDAY, August 16
Fly home -- Today we wake up to a beautiful day, sunny and breezy. Hate to think that this wonderful cruise is now coming to an end. Bags need to be out between 6:30 and 7:00. Jim goes up to the Panorama Buffet for breakfast. This morning is being handled very smoothly. We are all staggered so that everyone doesn't arrive at the airport at the same time. I have a little time while waiting for our bus to be called at 8:30 to enjoy the balcony. It is just a wonderful morning to be outside.  

Our bus finally is called and we leave the ship. We need to identify our luggage and then the luggage is put on our bus. All of the luggage did not fit, so some was put onto the next bus. The baggage handlers are working like beavers. We do encounter one problem with one of the handlers. We carried on our breakables and had them on a seat. The baggage handler brings other luggage on and plops it right on top of our breakables. Jim asks him not to put it there. With that the guy pushes down on our bag with the other and became quite mouthy. Fortunately nothing is broken.

Arrive at the airport and I go to get the VAT (Value Added Tax) forms stamped by customs. Jim needs to wait for the next bus for the remainder of our luggage. There is a line for the VAT forms but it moves quickly and no one asks to see any of our goods. Once the baggage arrives, we check in and are told that our flight is delayed and instead of leaving at 12:30, the flight will leave at 3:00. Now the complaining begins, especially with those with connecting flights. Seeing this, we decide that if we ever need a connecting flight we will stay overnight and not book until the next day. Once we find out about the delayed flight, I ask Jim if we should call our limo service about the change in times. He tells me that they told him that they monitor the flights and don't send someone up until they know what time it is coming in. When we get to the check-in counter, the girl tells us to go to another counter because two of our bags are too heavy. They had to label them as heavy but there was no extra charge (are we ever lucky!)

We meet up with Kathy and John, who were on the bus leaving for the airport a half an hour before ours. We find a restaurant at the airport called Tivoli and have a delicious, relaxing lunch. I order a selection of open-faced sandwiches (smorgasbord). These were delicious roast beef, with horseradish and other goodies, shrimp with caviar, pickled cucumbers and white asparagus, and shrimp with ham and cucumbers.

With the flight delay we have plenty of time to shop in the duty free shops. One of the shops has a very pretty amber pedant ($40) and small amber earrings ($15), which I buy for a friend, a Tivoli Gardens coloring set for a friend's grandson, a couple of lighters for stocking stuffers for the smokers in the family, and postcards. Have no idea where I am going to put this stuff since we are packed to the gills, but where there is a will there is a way! Jim is less than happy when he sees me with yet, another bag. Kathy gets a couple of very pretty amber heart pendants for about $18 each.

We finally board the plane at about 3:30. The aircraft is hot, and we are told that the airport will not allow them to turn on the air conditioning until we are ready to leave. They have us hooked up to a ground air conditioning system, which is useless. Makes for lots of hot and cranky passengers. We finally take off and it cools off quickly. The flight is about seven hours and seems so long.  However, it is a smooth flight and the flight attendants are a lot more professional then the crew on the way over. They show three movies on this flight, "The Mexican",  "Thirteen Days", and "Chocolat".

Arrive at JFK, at about 7:20. I have never been so happy to get off of a plane. It was the same plane as going over but the seats seemed even narrower and we seemed more cramped. Guess we were just all hot and tired and the flight was longer going east, since no there were no tail winds to help us along.

Get off the plane and walk to customs. Find a skycap to help us with our bags. Everything is here, the luggage is loaded on the cart for us and the skycap goes through customs with us. As we approach customs there are two gentlemen who do not feel that it is necessary for them to wait on line but intend to cut in front of us. Being tired, I have no patience for such rudeness. I say, "excuse me, you need to go to the end of the line." They did listen but if looks could kill! Customs was a breeze; the agent takes our card, stamps it and not even a question to answer. Our driver is there with a card held up with our name, the skycap takes our luggage right to our car and loads it in. No muss, no fuss.

There are many who miss their connecting flights and others who only have 20-30 minutes to collect their baggage, get through customs and make it to their flights. Wonder how many made it?

One blessing of our flight being delayed is that we miss the NY rush hour traffic and sail right home. Our driver never stops talking for the two-hour trip. We get his whole life story, and I'm not kidding when I say his whole life! All Jim wants is to close his eyes.  The driver doesn't just go off with a monologue but is requiring answers from us! He tells us that there was a change in cars from the town car we ordered so that he will be adjusting the price and that he has been waiting for us since 3:00 PM. I asked why they weren't monitoring the flights as we were told and he said that he had someone else he took to JFK so was up there anyway. Didn't think any more of it. When we get home the driver says that the charge is double what we were quoted, because of his waiting time. Jim only tipped him and is talking to the owner of the service about this one. As it is, the transportation cost us over $150 each way, so now instead of $300 they want to charge us $450. This isn't counting the drivers 20% tip. (The next day, they did remove the charge. Their position was that they couldn't find a number for Omni. Suggest that if anyone uses a limo. service that you give them the contact number for Omni that Renaissance provides before you leave.)

Had a wonderful cruise and loved this itinerary. Even the weather didn't spoil it for us. We are definitely fans of Renaissance since this was our fourth cruise with them, and we have two booked for next year. Feel that Renaissance took excellent care of us, and that things were extremely well organized. There will always be those who complain and find fault. Nothing is perfect and there are always a few snags with any cruise or cruise line. We still feel that for the price paid, Renaissance provides a quality cruise at a very affordable price.  

What I especially liked about this particular cruise is that there was a nice mix of ages and life styles. There were couples, singles and parents with teen children - young, middle aged, retirees, and also a few gay couples. In my personal opinion the mix makes for a much more enjoyable cruise. I guess I enjoy the variety and also the varied conversations that come along with the differences.

The ship is beautiful and in my opinion, one of the prettiest afloat. I'm sure that not everyone might agree but the décor is very much to my taste. I also like the size of the ship since it is large enough to offer most amenities but small enough so that you don't feel like part of a herd of cattle. The ship is also large enough to offer good stability.

For the most part the food was excellent. In my opinion most of it was absolutely delicious and there was a very nice selection for each course. There were a few meals that I would rate as good rather than excellent and then there was the one meal that Jim did have to send back but it was replaced with another selection in record time. The desserts are absolutely wonderful.

I have absolutely no complaints about the service on this cruise. The crew was wonderful. The only problem we encountered was the slow service in the Horizon's Lounge at certain hours.

The entertainment was enjoyable but definitely not the lavish Broadway style shows of the mega liners.  However, we are more than happy to trade the big productions for the intimacy of a smaller ship.

The shore excursions are expensive but no more so than we have found on other cruise lines. We were very pleased with the tours we took.

All of the ports use the British Pound as currency, except for Cobh and Dublin which, use the Irish Punt and Copenhagen which uses the Danish Krone

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Read the Murphy's other reviews -

R5 Istanbul to Athens
R3 French Polynesia
R2 Iberian Peninsula

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