Holland and Norway - July 2002

Gail and I have just returned from a 3 week jaunt with our daughter Tracy and husband Paul Wakefield to Norway and France. We were extremely lucky with the weather and only had to deal with rain on our return trip to Dover on the North Sea, and then only for part of day.

We all met in the airport in Paris on the morning of July 25. Everything worked perfectly as far as travel and tight schedules were concerned, except that Air Canada took my bag off of the plane in Toronto. Received it on our second day in Amsterdam!

We drove from Paris to Calais, caught a high speed ferry to Dover and overnighted there. Our ship the Braemar left port the next day on July 26th. The ship held only 750 passengers and was one of the smaller vessels on which we have sailed. It was very nice accommodation, and we enjoyed some entertaining floor shows. The food was modest and not spectacular, just like the Brits like it.

Above Left:  Our cruise ship the Braemar entering Dover Harbour in the early morning of our embarkation day. Guess who was up at about 6 am to take this out of our bedroom window? No, not I, it was GAIL.

Above Centre:  Gail and I boarding the Braemar. My clothes are 3 days old at this point, no bag yet!

Above Right:  Leaving the port of Dover. In the foreground is the breakwater and on the skyline, Dover Castle. Churchill's operations in WW2 were centred in the cliff face just under Dover Castle.

Above Left: Our table, one of the joys of cruising is the evening dinner hour, we always enjoy this part of the cruise.

Above Centre:  A person has to realize that it is not ALL fun and games on board a cruise ship. There are certain duties one is expected to fulfill, such as paying to have your picture taken with showgirls. The one on the right squeezed my arm and voila!

Above Right:  Our Captain, a Norwegian guy and one of the more accessible skippers that we have encountered, a nice man.


We only had a day to look around Amsterdam, but we did take a tour to view some of the country side and a few windmills. It seems to be a very pleasant country with welcoming people. It is worth a better look some day.

Above Left: Entering the port of Amsterdam in the early morning.

Above Centre:  We took a tour to the rehabilitated old Dutch village of Zaanse Schans, which included several windmills still in working condition.

Above Right:  A photo along the canal in the town of Edam. They say that it is very seldom now that the canal's freeze over enough to allow the locals to skate on them. So much for my memories of Holland as told in books in school. Now, the Rideau Canal, well that is another story1

Above Left

It is amazing how much of this country is below sea level and the systems of dykes and pump stations to maintain it in a dry state is nothing short of miraculous. A good portion of Holland is reclaimed land from both the sea and lakes.A system of pumps removes water and places it into the canals and dykes and locks which are sometimes above the surrounding land.

Above Right

Tracy was fascinated by the windmill's and how they worked. One of the mill's was being run to grind seeds into vegetable oil as a demonstration. We were able to watch this grinding and also to view the intricate gears and other mechanisms in operation. Never did really understand before why the Dutch had so many windmills before there was such as thing as electric power!


After leaving Amsterdam we cruised to our first Norwegian stop at a place called Stavanger a city of about 100,000 people. This is the oil capital of Norway and services the offshore oil rigs in the North Sea. The Norwegians maintain a high quality of life despite the difficult terrain and small population of about 4.5 million people. Their road and bus and transportation systems are excellent. For example in Stavenger they excavated a highway tunnel a distance of 5 kilometers under the sea to access an island part of the city. Vancouver with a population pushing 2 million cannot afford to drive a similar tunnel to solve one of the major traffic problems in the city!

At any rate, we visited an ancient monastery (Utstein Monastery) which was constructed in Viking times. I guess we tend to forget that the Norse were a very powerful country 1,000 years ago, conquering much of Europe and Great Britain. Strangely, they were not heathen through the latter part of their power but were Christian. Some churches and this particular monastery were built almost 1,000 years ago.

Our next stop was at the end of the longest fjord in Norway ( 204 km) at a small village called Flam. We took a train from Flam and climbed up a very steep mountain pass at grades as steep as anywhere else in the world. At an elevation of 2800 feet, we transferred to another train traveling to the city of Voss, and from there took a bus down the other side of the mountain range. We stopped at the Stalheim Hotel, constructed on the edge of a cliff. This cliff drops 1200 feet to the valley below. During WW2 the Germans developed the area as a strong point and a bunker remains near the hotel to this day. When we continued on our journey the bus wound its way down and through a series of 13 swtichback turns to reach the valley below. I would not want to attempt it in a car and I marvelled the ability of these drivers to keep the buses on the road. Our ship had moved during our land tour to the little port of Gudvangen and we went back onboard after crossing a mountain range from sea to sea.

The cruise out of Flam that evening would be the image that most people would have in their mind about fjords. We enjoyed long narrow waterways with mountains and cliffs virtually hanging over the ship.

Above Left:  We enter the Port of City of Stavanger in the early morning.

Above Centre:  Tracy ashore in Stavanger, note the colourful buildings, common throughout Norway

Above Right:  The entrance to  the  Stavenger Cathedral sections of which are almost 1,000 years old.

Left: We travelled by train from Flam over the mountains to Gudvangen. This was one of the shots taken from the train window of a beautiful small village.

Right:  They allowed us off the train to photograph this falls. Notice the young lady standing on the rock near the falls, supposedly a troll that entices men away from their wives never to be seen again!

Below:  Entering the small town of Flam. Can you believe that this little town enjoys a railway service, and road access is via a 16.5 mile long highway tunnel said to be the longest highway tunnel in the world!

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Norway Continued