Olden, Norway

Olden was the second place we sailed to on our recent trip to Norway. I had never even heard of the place, I felt a bit embarrassed by that but actually visiting Olden cured me of that as it’s really a very small place, but rather lovely.

We were keen to get off the Black Watch and into the lovely countryside, we had eschewed (how do you pronounce that word? I opt for shoo rather than chew) the organised trips and took to the road, winding through some house lined streets and going up into the road that leads to the scenic Oldeelva river.

It wasn’t a blue sky day but I’m quite glad of that as the low wispy cloud was so atmospheric.
Oldeelva river ,Olden

Oldeelva river , Olden

In parts the river became a roaring torrent.
Oldeelva river falls , Olden

Walking further on you reach a lake, called Floen. When we got back to the ship later that day we seemed to be regarded as heroes for managing to walk that far, and back again of course. The onlly other people who went there under their own steam had used hired bikes, and we beat them there!

Lake at Olden

I had wanted to go and visit a glacier too, but if we had gone on that arranged trip we wouldn’t have been able to do the walk, a glacier visit will have to wait for now.
Lake  at Olden

The photo below is taken from the bridge over the river at Olden looking up the valley back towards Lake Floen.
looking up valley  at Olden

On the way back to the Black Watch we decided to take the path along the opposite side of the river, but eventually the ground became very boggy so we had to go further up the embankment onto the hillside where it was drier. All in all I think we must have walked about seven miles or so. The photo below of Olden and the Black Watch at anchor was taken when we were really quite tired and longing to reach our temporary home. It was a great afternoon out though!

looking back to Olden

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

From Lysefjord we sailed into Aurlandsfjord which turned out to be even more spectacular. It’s a branch of the much larger Sognefjord as in the map below. If you look to the right hand side of the map you will see Aurlandsfjord.

Sogne Fjord map

The photographs don’t look that wonderful, it was a grey day, but I think you can get a flavour of the ethereal atmosphere with the wispy low clouds.


I think of Norway as being just like Scotland – with knobs on! It always amazes me that trees can thrive in such grim growing conditions, this is a very heavily wooded mountainside and the trees have their roots in the rocks.

Aurlandsfjord mountains

Aurlandsfjord leads to the small town of Flam (pronounced flom as in from) and on the way there there are small communities, wherever there are some small patches of greenery people have settled there. These pieces of fertile land are few and far between, most of Norway is too rocky for growing crops. That was the whole reason that the Vikings had to get on their ships and look for somewhere else to live, the land couldn’t support all of the inhabitants.

Aurlandsfjord houses

Some of these houses are only lived in during the summer, they look idyllic to me but I can imagine that the winters are long and grim.

Aurslandfjord houses

I was quite happy with our grey sky views of the fjord but if you want to see other people’s blue sky photos have a look here.

The next Norway post will be of Flam.

Getxo, Basque Spain

If anyone is interested in seeing more of the lovely town of Getxo in Spain’s Basque country – hop over to A Son of the Rock here as Jack has been posting a lot of photos of our visit in various blogposts, including a transporter bridge, there are very few of them in the world apparently.

Lorient in Brittany – bagpipes!

We had a fairly miserable weekend weather-wise, freezing overnight and thick ice on the car. I was painting a spare bedroom while Jack went to a football match. It began to snow just a few minutes after he had left the house.

Paint roller in hand, my mind went back to that cruise we went on in the autumn. I realised that I hadn’t mentioned that we were assailed by bagpipe music on the wharf at Lorient.

At first I thought I might be hearing things but as we got closer to the ship, after having visited the town on foot, it was definitely bagpipe music, but not as WE know it.

Bagpipes are popular in various parts of the world but it has to be said that it’s the Scottish bagpipes that are full strength, the type of noise that was a good weapon in many a battle, terrifying the enemy before a sword was drawn. Other bagpipes are pale imitations, but I must admit, much easier on the ears at close quarters!

If you want to hear what the Breton bagpipes sound like – hop over to Jack at A Son of the Rock and click on the photo of the bagpiper, and that’ll take you to his Flickr for the wee video. It has to be said that a Scottish bagpiper’s traditional outfit is far superior to the Breton attire though!

Honfleur in France

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the building in the photo below, it’s up for sale but it looks like nature is going to beat any buyer to it.

aplant cliff 1

From there we went for a snoop around a supermarket, it’s always interesting in a foreign country – to see what different things are on offer food-wise. But with French supermarkets you always have to pluck up courage to go in as when you first step through the doors you are invariably assailed by such a horrendous smell that it takes some courage not to just turn around and dash out again for fresh air. I don’t know how they manage it, I suspect they just never clean the places.

Below is a photo of an old style French ‘gents’ public toilet – and it’s still in use. As usual Jack was in need of a loo (I swear I could write a guidebook on the public loos of Scotland – I seem to have stood outside most of them at some point!) Anyway, he went into the small white building which he thought was unisex, but I’m not so sure as the old metal structure is still in use, I saw chaps using it, and I mean saw as their heads were in view. This is all rather alien to Brits, but French toilet facilities still leave a lot to be desired, in some places it is literally just a hole in the ground!

It reminded me of Clochemerle, it’s a book by Gabriel Chevallier and it was televised way back in the early 1970s on the BBC, very late due to its subject matter being seen as rather risque in those days.

From the ‘cor blimey’ to the sublime Saint Catherine’s Church below is really old, 15th century in some parts I believe.

Honfleur Church

The church has a separate belltower.
achurch 4 belltower
And this other church was actually open.

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As you can see the internal decor is quite different from British churches.

achurch archway

The very intricate designs on the walls and ceilings seem to be more in keeping with a grand house, but maybe that is a feature of French Roman Catholic churches. It’s beautiful anyway.

achurch frieze

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Sailing on out of Honfleur, the surroundings are lovely, with this heavily wooded area right by the coast.
aleaving harbour 2

Sailing back out to sea, as you can see it’s a flat calm but the sea did get a wee bit more interesting in the next few days as we sailed back to Scotland. Most of the time though lying in bed on ship made me think of how it would feel if you were being stirred around gently in a big bowl. I find it very relaxing – rock-a-bye-baby sort of sensation, although I always worried about that lullaby’s words. Even as a small child that sounded crazily dangerous to me!

aleaving harbour 3

Ferrol in Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise and after sailing across the Bay of Biscay from Aviles we reached Ferrol in Galicia, north-western Spain. It’s quite a large city, a centre of naval shipbuilding and was the birthplace of the dictator General Franco.

The photo below is of palm trees just on the edge of the docks, so exotic looking to me anyway.

atrees at port

There are some lovely buildings, it all seems prosperous here anyway.
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The town is set out in a grid pattern and seems to be mainly pedestrianised and each long street led to separate large squares, often with an ornate building, town hall or some such thing, all very stylish.

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There seemed to be a never ending supply of streets and shops and I was impressed that most of the town squares were beautifully planted, and a lot of them had play areas for children, swings and such. What a great idea, for city dwelling children and for any kids being taken into the town, something they often dread, at least the parents will be able to promise some fun at the play area after being dragged around the shops.

second square 2 trees

asecond square 1 trees

I think tree-lined avenues are a feature of Spain and they do make lovely dappled shade, just what you need in their sunny climate, this one was just a short walk from the city centre.

aavenue of trees

Ferrol was a very vibrant place, lots of locals were carrying multiple carrier bags from stores and boutiques, the place was fairly crowded but suddenly the background hum that probably every city has just disappeared, the streets seemed to have emptied somehow – it was 2 pm – siesta time! Most of the shops shut, apart from eateries. It’s very bizarre this siesta malarkey and I heard Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics mention that the siesta had a bad effect on the Spanish economy, if so it’s about time they gave it up and dragged themselves into the 21st century.

asiesta time

Ferrera Park Aviles, Asturias in Spain part 3

After walking up a fairly steep road, admiring the marble all the way, we got to the park which is quite a busy place, very well used by joggers and all sorts, like most parks. Duck ponds are always popular with the kids and they have two rather exotic black swans in residence there.

aswan 1

Unfortunately this one had a limp.
Swan in Ferrera Park, Aviles

Ferrera Park is 80,000 square metres in area and it was the private park of the Ferrera Marquesses’ family until it was finally bought by the Town Hall for public use. King Juan Carlos I inaugurated it in May 1976. It is an English/British style park.

There’s a separate area through a gateway leading into this topiary garden which made me feel very much at home, all clipped box hedges, roses, pelargoniums and lavender.

a garden in park 1

agarden in Ferrera  park 2

In fact I think that the large stone building in the background was a convent and this would have been a medicinal garden in earlier times.

agarden in Ferrera park 3

It’s a really beautiful part of the park and we had it all to ourselves, there was a sign at the entrance and from a distance we could only read a large NO so we thought maybe you weren’t allowed in but as we got closer we saw that it said NO DOGS, but maybe it put people off going in. I’d have hated to have missed it, and I must admit it was nice to be able to take photos with no people around.

garden in park 7 fountain

Aviles in Asturias, Spain part 2

I took quite a lot of photos while we were in Aviles, it’s such a lovely and historic place and when you keep walking to the top of the town you reach a very well used set of botanic gardens.

aStreet 8

It’s quite a steep uphill walk to the park and gardens and I was amazed to see that the roads and pavements are made of polished marble – how posh is that? I suppose marble quarries in this region might be as common as slate and sandstone quarries in the UK, so they aren’t precious about it. The marble is scored every three inches or so, I imagine so that is isn’t slippy in damp or icy weather, not that they get much in the way of freezing weather in Aviles. The marble makes the place look very smart and opulent even although the buildings are obviously old and some in need of a bit of buffing up.

Marble Paving in Aviles

aStreet 10

Sadly the marble doesn’t look nearly as nice in the photos as it does in reality.

aStreet 9

aStreet 11

These trees were at the bottom of the marble-paved street.

aStreet 12 trees

The next Aviles post will feature the park.

Aviles, Asturias in Spain

The next port of call on our recent cruise was Aviles in the region of Asturias, I must admit I had never heard of Aviles before, but it turned out to be a lovely place with very friendly people, keen to practice their English – phew!

aoldest building 1
Above is the oldest stone building in Aviles, an ancient church, Los Franciscanos.
It’s also very historical with some really old buildings. Like many towns it has had a tough time over the years economically and in the past just about all of the young men had to leave the place to go South America to find work. There’s nothing new under the sun is there?! Thankfully for them it seems to be a thriving place now.

a4 poster 1

The wooden building on stilts is very unusual and ancient, and a kind local directed us to it, just in case we missed seeing it, it reminds me of those medieval store houses you sometimes see in old English towns.

I loved the drinking fountains in the photo below, they’re situated outside the church, presumably they were for pilgrims to refresh themelves, I wouldn’t chance the water now though.

stone fountain

This part of northern Spain apparently gets a lot of rain so most of the balconies have windows behind them but I think they can be opened back like shutters.

Balconies 1

Tiles are a feature of a lot of the buildings in Spain, they look very smart, I wonder if the have to be cleaned or the rain washes them?! As you can see the dress shop below this block of flats is shut – siesta time.
aTiling 1

I particularly liked the building above, very pretty.
aTiling 2

I took such a lot of photos of Aviles that I’ll be doing it in two or three blogposts – more tomorrow.

Getxo, Spain

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Getxo, pronounced Getcho, in northern Spain (Basque country) is the port for Bilbao and it’s a lovely place. It’s easy to see that the town was incredibly wealthy in the past, and it’s not at all shabby nowadays.

aGetxo 2

There’s an esplanade which is over a mile long and I must admit that it’s a lot more scenic than Kirkcaldy’s mile long esplanade. The rich people in times past built huge mansions, all in different styles on the edge of the esplanade, obviously taking advantage of the sea views, and vying with each other as to who could have the grandest house.

aGetxo 5

aGetxo 3
After our morning and early afternoon in Bilbao we went back to the ship for lunch and then walked into Getxo and had a drink in one of the bars. We dodged the tapas which was all very fishy (I’m not a fan of fish) but more importantly it was a very hot day and the tapas dishes were just lying out, not chilled. I can imagine that if you’re a local and are used to eating it then it would be fine but I reckon it would have just about killed us if we had chanced it.
aGetxo 6 ship
The photo above is ofour ship Black Watch and her sister ship Boudicca is moored just behind.

People in Spain seem to live a sort of split shift life. The shops don’t open until 11 am then close at 2 pm. Then it’s lunch and siesta time and everything opens up again at 5 pm until 8 pm. THEN they open again at 11 pm until 2 am. I was particularly amazed to see that even a shop selling candles and fancy soaps as well as things for kiddies was open from 11 pm until 2 am. Presumably people must actually go into the shops at those times otherwise they wouldn’t open up, but I was left wondering if it was errant husbands who had been out on a longer than expected drinking binge who were the customers. Maybe they feel the need to go home with peace offerings for their wives.

So again, we didn’t contribute anything to the town’s economy. except for the amazingly cheap drinks, 3.60 euros – because it was only the bars that were open!
aGetxo 9

We in the UK take it for granted that shops open from 9 am until 5.30 pm but I know that Peggy was surprised that our shops closed at 5.30 apparently they open until 8 pm in the US.

aGetxo 27 deco 7 + yachts

It was another gorgeous hot day, about 27 centigrade, very unusual for the time of the year and the locals said we were very lucky as it rains all the time there! That must account for it looking so green and verdant.