Friday, October 31, 2014

Dunmore East, Waterford, Inistioge, Woodstock House

Our first port of call was Dunmore East, a fishing village in County Waterford, Ireland.  Since this is such a small harbor, we used tenders to get to shore.  From there my sister and I took a bus trip to the picturesque small town of Inistioge (pronounced something like IN-ish-teeg) and the famous gardens of the Woodstock House estate.  We passed through the town of Waterford on the way but did not stop; we decided to skip the shore excursion that visited Waterford Crystal because it's no longer a working factory (production has been moved to China).  I was more interested in the countryside anyway, since part of my late husband's family was originally from the area.  The Woodstock gardens turned out to be mainly exotic trees; the estate was at its height in the late 19th century, fell into disrepair after WWI, and is still in the process of being restored by the Kilkenny County Council.  No local food was consumed during this excursion, except for a cup of hot tea each purchased at the small detached Woodstock House gift shop.  (Note that several of these photos were taken from the bus.  And yes, it rained off and on all day.)

Dunmore East:


Dunbrody Famine Ship (reproduction of an 1840's emigrant ship)


 Woodstock House and Gardens:

"In 1921, the [Woodstock House] property was occupied by the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, which caused much local resentment, and then by troops of the Free State Army, who were withdrawn from the premises during the Irish Civil War, on 1 July 1922. The house, left unguarded, was burnt down the next day, and remains a derelict empty shell, overgrown with vegetation." ~Wikipedia entry for Woodstock Estate

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Bridge and a Bath

We were in Rotterdam overnight before embarking on the actual cruise.  We took the train there from Amsterdam and lugged our baggage a block and a half to a Holiday Inn Express; the most memorable thing about the hotel was our bathroom, which was lit by an eerie blue light.  It looked like we could have stepped in and yelled, "Beam me up, Scotty!"

The bridge pictured below is Rotterdam's famous Erasmus Bridge, also known as "The Swan" because of its distinctive shape.

We got an early start the next morning and were glad of it; shortly after we boarded the ship, its computer system went down, and later arrivals were stuck in the terminal until service was restored.  The staff apparently distributed drinks and snacks after a while, but some of the people who missed lunch were pretty surly about the delay.

Our ship was Holland America's recently refurbished Rotterdam.  Possibly because Rotterdam is its home port, a very high percentage of the passengers was Dutch, and all the announcements on board were in both English and Dutch.  One night my sister and I went to see the Disney movie Frozen and were startled to realize that the Dutch version was being shown.  We stayed and watched anyway; we missed some of the jokes, but the plot was simple enough to follow even in a foreign language.

The second picture below is one of the ceiling lights in the Rotterdam's auditorium, where we waited most mornings for our shore excursions to start.

"Constructed to facilitate the orchestration of traffic flows, the [Erasmus] bridge design is inspired by, and in turn reflects, the industrial character of Rotterdam, adding to the narrative of the city. The bridge operates as the last crossing point between the Northern and Southern areas of the city, whilst its structural scale and design articulation has become a distinctive landmark within the surrounding skyline." ~UNStudio [the firm responsible for the design] on

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Vacation in the Rain

So much for my hopes of regular postings...

More medical problems for both my parents this summer, more work from every direction - and then I agreed to another cruise with my sister.  This one started and ended in Rotterdam, and stopped along the way in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Norway.  Since Sue wanted to spend some time before and after the cruise in the Netherlands, and the flight over took (counting the time changes) nearly two days, we were gone almost a month.  We took out trip insurance and said daily prayers that our mother wouldn't break another hip and our father wouldn't suffer a heart attack in our absence.

In many respects it was an amazing trip.  However, the weather was not what we had hoped for.  The websites we consulted while packing assured us that the average high temp in the areas we would be visiting was 70 degrees Fahrenheit during that time of year; while we were there, the highs averaged in the low 50s, with pouring rain and high winds.  To make matters worse, my sister almost immediately came down with a bad cold; neither it nor her temper was improved by the weather.  Then we both managed to injure ourselves the day we left the ship.  Sigh.

Still, it was a memorable vacation, and we had plenty of opportunities to improve our "photography in the rain" skills.  Here are some of the pictures from the two days we spent in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip.  Most of them are from our visit to the Rijksmuseum; we also toured the Van Gogh museum, which was fascinating but doesn't allow photos, and the gift shop at the Stedelijk Museum of modern art and design, which was otherwise closed for remodeling.

The feature that struck me most about Amsterdam was the number of bicycles.  I don't remember this many from my previous trip here in the late 80s.  I didn't know there were this many bicycles in the entire world.  Many of them had what looked like shower caps over the seats to fend off the rain.  An extraordinary number of the bicyclists we saw had passengers: children in carts attached to the front wheel, in child seats behind the main seat, perched on the handlebars, or some combination of the three; and adults in sidecars or seated astride or sidesaddle over the rear wheel.  Needless to say, we saw a lot of muscular calves in Amsterdam.

Oslo airport - chair has outlets for wifi users.

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Wedding dress exhibit in the Rijksmuseum

Musical instrument exhibit in the Rijksmuseum

Model ship exhibit in the Rijksmuseum

Sitting room in a doll house in the Rijksmuseum

The huge IAMSTERDAM sign in front of the museum is part of an ad campaign for the city; to learn more about Amsterdam, check out the website: