Wednesday, May 24, 2017  
Normandy, France

Paris/Normandy (Le Havre)…the name comes from the Parisii, a tribe of Gauls who founded the town in about 250 BC. The settlement rests on the Seine Island where Notre Dame Cathedral rest today.

Today our group did Le Havre’s Longest Day. On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest amphibious attack in history on five beaches at Normandy. The Port of Le Havre was almost destroyed. Nearly 7,000 vessels were involved in the landing, and 12,000 aircraft flying 14,000 sorties. By the 4th of July, one million men had landed, 148,000 vehicles with half-a-billion tons of supplies. There are several cemeteries in Normandy, including Bayeux, the largest British cemetery in the world with 4,648 interred and La Cambre, where 21,222 Germans are buried.

The country side is beautiful. It looks like a fairy tale or a movie set with the homes, gardens, and animals/crops in the fields. The weather started out overcast but the sun came out later in the day. This region grows the largest crop of flax in the world that is used to make linen. The flax is shipped to China for processing. This was shared by our guide, Gerald who is from Paris and was very knowledgeable. We left at 8:00 AM and returned at 6:30PM. It is a 5 hour drive from port to Normandy beaches.

There was a surprise visitor today at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial while we were there. David Eisenhower, grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and former President of the United States was there, along with his wife Julie Nixon and her sister Tricia Nixon and family. They were placing a wreath at the memorial site. The national anthem and taps were played. I would estimate a few hundred veterans and families were there. I can only say, what I saw today was humbling and I am honored to be an American. The young men and woman who gave all are resting in a spectacular place overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel.

The Memorial features a 22 foot statue, “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” facing west toward the headstones. This is where David Eisenhower placed the wreath. A central mall bisects the cemetery’s 10 grave plots. Our servicemen and women lie beneath precisely aligned headstones of white Lasa marble, Latin crosses and Stars of David. The Garden of the Missing has engraved tablets that honor the missing in action who gave their lives in this region. A bronze rosette beside a name shows that the remains were later recovered, identified and buried.

Additional information:

  • Dimensions: 172.5 acres
  • Headstones: 9,387
  • Latin Crosses: 9,238
  • Stars of David: 149
  • Missing in Action: 1,557
  • Sets of Brothers: 45
  • Medal of Honor Recipients: 3 dedicated in July 18, 1956

Our next stop was lunch at Hotel-Restaurant ferme de la Ranconniere Manior de Mathan . The lunch was served with salad, entre, desert, and wine.

The last stop was Arromanches, the artificial harbor and the beach. This is where the generals and Prime Minister Churchill decided to build a floating barge which would rise up and down with the tide. This was the perfect place as it was not occupied by the Germans. Supplies and vehicles were unloaded and delivered to the GIs from here. You can still see several of the barges standing today.

It has been an emotional day revisiting history. I encourage all Americans to visit Normandy.

We are heading back to Southampton, England. We will arrive Thursday morning and disembark the ship by 7:00 AM. Enjoy the pictures.

Good night from Normandy.

Nola


German Bunker at Normandy Beach

German Gun at Normandy Beach

 

Monday, May 22, 2017  
Queensferry, Edinburg, Scotland

The weather this morning is cool and light rain is falling. We are tethering at Queensferry. The ship is too big to go under the Forth Bridge completed 1890. Our destination is Edinburg, Scotland.

Selda and I choose to freelance in Queensferry. Its history dates back to the 15 century. It is a delightfully unspoiled conservation town nestled among three marvels of engineering which span the Firth of Forth.

The Forth Bridge, which took seven years to build, opened in 1890. It remains a marvel of Victorian engineering to this day. It is now a World Heritage Site known the world over and is a working bridge for commuter and intercity train journeys.

2017 saw the introduction of a public art sculpture created by local primary school children, located at Mclver’s Brae. The fierce but smiling, serpentine-like Guardian looks out for all who pass along the River Forth under the famous bridges.

Priory Church is the oldest Episcopal Church in Scotland. It is the sole surviving medieval Carmelite Church in the UK, dating back to the 15th century.

Selda and I walked a good portion of Queensferry. The streets are narrow. The shops are right on the street with living spaces above. There is sea life in the Forth—seals, birds, ducks.

There are boat trips to Inchcolm Island where the beautiful ruined abbey founded in 1123 by King Alexander I remains one of the best preserved monastic buildings in Scotland.

Shirley, Betty, Linda, Jan, Carolyn and Paul caught the shuttle, 25 minutes from Queensferry into Edinburg. Everyone has an agenda to fulfill with adventures and shopping.

There are several light houses along the coast line. They are the guardians of the ships as they sail by. Selda has enjoyed the light houses on the coast line and at times they are anchored on their own island.

Good night from Queensferry, Edinburg, Scotland
Nola


Queensferry

Forth Bridge, completed in 1890

Forth Bridge

Street view in Queensferry

Apartment in Queensferry

Flowers in apartment windo

Priory Church


Seal sculpture

 

Sunday, May 21, 2017  
Ivergordon, Inverness, the largest city in the Highlands of Scotland

Today the weather is cold and sunny, with highes in the 50’s.

Gateway to the Highlands of Scotland, Inverness and the surrounding area is a living storybook filled with fabled monsters and fantastic castles. The earliest recorded history of Inverness begins in the Dark Ages, when the city was a main stronghold of the Picts. It is the largest city in the Highlands of Scotland. It lies on the coast of northeastern Scotland, at the mouth of the River Ness, which flows from nearby Lock Ness.

In 1933, an enterprising Inverness journalist reported an odd sighting in the lake. The legend grew and today individuals still scan the dark water of the Lock for “Nessie”. Some claim that a creature has been sighted here as far back as the 6th century. Numerous searches have been undertaken, but the loch’s murky waters, 755 feet at its deepest point, have made it difficult to get a definitive report.

Invegordon, on the shore of the beautiful Cromarty Firth, is a deep water port with a population of 4500. Its main commercial activities include whisky distilling, fish feed production, oil rig repair and maintenance, nail varnish and jigsaw puzzle production and as well as thriving cruise ship industry.

Today, Selda, Shirley and I did the Dunrobin Castle tour. It is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating back to the early 1300’s. During WWII it also served as a hospital for the soldiers. It is the largest house in the northern Highlands, with 189 rooms. The Countess of Southerland (96yr) and her family still maintain private quarters here. The formal gardens are replica of the Palace of Versailles. You cannot take pictures above the ground floor entrance in the castle.

The country side is beautiful. Lambs and cows can be seen laying around the pastures with no worries . We saw seals and ducks along the coast line. The Yellow shrubs are in bloom all over the countryside. It is cold, in the 50’s, however the sun is out. Growing in the fields is a bright yellow grain called Rape Seed. They use it for cooking oil.

Jan and Linda did a self-paced tour today. Carolyn and Paul did a self-paced tour and they attended church. I believe we all have been blessed today. God is good. Enjoy the pictures.

Good night from Nessie…Ivergordon.
Nola


Dunrobin Castle

Formal gardens at Dunrobin Castle

One land country road

Landscape

View of rape seed field from our balcony
 

 

Friday, May 19, 2017  
Dock at Greenock (Glasgow, Scotland)

Our weather is overcast; in the 60’s. The sun peeks out of the clouds to let us know it is still there.

FYI: Our group is well and active. Everyone is doing their own thing. Usually we are together in the dining room for dinner at 5:30PM. And, depending on the energy level, some may get together for cards or go into the Princess Theater where they have live productions. We have our cell phones set up with The Princess texting on board only to communicate with each other when we are on ship. It is a good way to invite others if they are open to join in with activities and location of events. There are several shore excursions for us to choose from at each port we dock. Or we can choose to freelance, meaning just taking a chance and going out on our own to make memories.

Today we will be off the ship discovering Glasgow. St. Mungo founded the first settlement in the 6th century but it was not until 1175 that King William made Glasgow an official town. Glasgow is located 45 minutes from the port of Greenock, sits on the River Clyde in the country’s west central lowlands. The banks of the mighty River Clyde give way through stunning countryside to the city of Glasgow. This commercial and cultural capital of the Scottish Lowlands boast some of the finest Victorian architecture in the entire United Kingdom. Glasgow’s history stretches back almost 2, 000 years with the establishment of a Roman outpost called Cathures. With the advent of Christianity, the city grew around a wooden church founder by St. Mungo in the 6th century. Some 600 years later, Glasgow Cathedral was built on the same site. Glaswegian merchants had acquired great wealth by importing sugar, rum, and tobacco from America. Even after the tobacco trade declined in the 19th century, the city continued to prosper as a center of textile manufacturing, shipbuilding and the coal and steel century.

I am up early to do laundry. Our shore excursion is at 12:45 PM. Sleda and I choose Glengoyne Distillery and Whisky Tasting. Not sure what the others will be doing today, however when we meet up at dinner, it is always a pleasure to hear of the adventures that occurred during the day from each one.

Our tour was a guided motor coach drive to Glengoyne Distillery, that has been in operation since 1833. It is about an hour and 20 minute drive through the highlands and lowlands. The countryside is a lush green decorated with sheep, cattle, trees, colorful shrubs and whatever else is growing in the fields. The road two lanes and very narrow. On the way we stopped at Loch Lomond, Scotland’s second largest freshwater lake. Scottish word for lake is Loch, and for the mountain is Ben. When we got to the distillery you could smell the barley and yeast working. Our sinuses opened up real good. We were ushered into a lovely room for viewing an informative video on whisky production and given a sample of 15 year single malt blend whisky. We then embarked on a tour of the distillery. This process has been going on for 500 years. Glengoyne Distillery is located in the Highlands of Scotland. I am ready to go into the business to make a single malt whisky!!! We enjoyed this very much.

We got back at 5:15 PM and went straight to the dining room. Everyone was there sharing their adventures and memories of the day. Jan and Linda suggested we go to see Uptown Town Motown music production in the Princess Theater. So, here we go again, making memories.

Good night!
Nola


Glengoyne Distillery, Highlands of Scotland

Glengoyne Distillery

Selda and Nola tasting whisky at Glengoyne Distillery

View from behind the Glengoyne Distillery

Lock Loman, Scotland
 

 

Thursday, May 18, 2017  
Belfast, Ireland

Review of how time passes so fast…We flew out of DFW on May 11. We have been on the go for 7days. Today, Shirley, Jan, Linda, Betty, Selda, and I will be touring Belfast while Carolyn and Paul freelance. We will tour with our guide, Ms. Barbara Ferguson (Approved Tourist Guide, please contact her if you will be visiting Ireland info@guidedtoursireland.com) and our driver Mr. Gerard McCabe (please contact him if you need transportation www.electchauffeurs.com). Barbara and Gerard are the best! If you need a driver and guide, they team up together.

Because of Barbara and Gerard we got to see Belfast from a local perspective. Barbra gave us the history of Belfast from the ancient past up to the present. We toured the neighborhoods and long series of Peace Walls—separation barriers that delineate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast. They interrupt numerous neighborhoods and are longer than the Berlin Wall. You sense a renewal of hope, peace and healing from the civil war fought the middle 60’s to early 70s. The murals painted on the walls share the history of what took place during this time.

We saw lots of spectacular sights in the city. We drove into a public park where the Belfast Parliament building is located. Barbra shared information about what is going on at the present with government policy. We saw the city hall which sits on the site of the Old White Linen Hall, an important international exchange. It is surrounded by a square that is home to a statue of Queen Victoria. We drove to the Titanic Memorial where we got out for pictures, and again Barbra shared the history of the building of the Titanic. Also, Titanic Studios is there. The large cranes with the initials H W, the tracks, and the tall iron poles are all originals of when the Titanic was built. We drove past the Grand Opera House and St George’s Market. Around 10:30 AM we stopped for tea. The tea café was a delight. The scones and tea/coffee will always be a memory not only for my taste buds, but also on my hips. The traditional way to eat a scone is to apply butter, clotted cream and then top off with jam.

We visited St. Anne’s Cathedral. The idea of a cathedral for Belfast arose in 1888 when the then town of Belfast was granted “city” status by Queen Victoria. The foundation stone was laid in September 1899 and at first, the new Cathedral was built around the old parish church of St. Anne’s (1776) which previously stood on this site. St. Anne’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church.

The Titanic Pall in St. Anne’s Cathedral was gifted in April 2012. The Titanic Pall is a beautiful handcrafted Funeral Pall dedicated to the 1,517 lives lost in the Titanic tragedy. The pall, made of 100% per cent Merino felt, backed with Irish linen and dyed an indigo blue, evokes an image of the midnight sea in which the Titanic finally came to rest. The large central cross is fashioned from lots of tiny crosses and hundreds more of these crosses, in silk, rayon, metallic and cotton threads, fall away towards the velvet rimmed edges of the pall, symbolic of lost lives sinking into the dark ocean. The pall picks up themes from the Titanic disaster, namely the midnight sea whilst the silver and white multiple crosses represent the iceberg. The abstract gold crosses, Stars of David and crescents were hand embroidered onto the felt using gold silk thread and represent the 1,517 people who lost their lives on the Titanic.

Nola


Gerard McCabe our driver and Barbara Ferguson our tour guide

Belfast group tour

View of Belfast Harbor from our balcony

Murals in a Belfast neighborhood

Parliament Building

Titanic Memorial

Titanic Pall

Cones and tea in Belfast

Victorain Holel in Belfast

Belfast street

 

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 16-17, 2017  
Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is a magical city that has lived on the banks of the River Liffey for at least a millennium and a half. We are here for two days. The majority of our group chose to free-lance. At 9:00 AM, we boarded the ship shuttle to Merrion Square. This is an area they call Georgian because of the British influence of buildings and green spaces. In addition, it is the #5 stop on the Hop On Hop Off bus, and home of Oscar Wilde who lived there from 1855-1878. It is now the home of The American College Dublin. Our first order of business was to purchase our tickets for the Hop On bus, which cost 15 Euro for a 24 hour pass. As a group, we walked about 5 minutes to Trinity College. It is Ireland’s oldest university and one of the great universities of the world.

Trinity College Library is the home of the Book of Kells and Old Library Exhibition. It is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The Book of Kells was probably written in the early 9th century. It contains lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels. Monks, who were the scribes and artists who produced them, held an honored place in Irish society. It has been associated with St. Columcille (c521-597 AD) who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland in 561. The Book of Kells was produced early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona, working wholly or partially at Iona itself or at Kells, county Meath, where they moved after 806 AD. The Vikings raided Iona which left 68 monks dead. The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for security during the Cromwellian period. It came to Trinity College through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661. Note: get there early to avoid long lines. Also you can book your tickets online: www.bookofkells.ie.

Selda and I broke off from the group to linger longer at Trinity College. When we entered The Long Room of the Old Library, it took our your breath away. It is nearly 65 meters in length, and houses around 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. Marble busts are placed down either side of the room, a collection begun in 1743, when 14 busts were commissioned from the sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Just got to see it for yourself.

We left Trinity College and headed for Grafton St. This is where we found the bronze Statue of Molly Malone. She was a young pretty girl who sold her sea food, cockles and muscles. Everyone loved her and the men wanted to marry her. However she died young of a fever…as the story is told. Behind the Molly Malone statue is St. Andrews Church. The church has been closed for 5 years for repairs. Across the street is a post office. We went in to purchase stamps. Note: The stamps you buy in Dublin can only be used to mail your postcards/letters from Dublin.

Across the street, O’Riley Pub called our names. We had our lunch there. After lunch we hopped on the bus to Christ Church Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Founded in 1030, Christ Church is Dublin’s oldest cathedral. People have been coming to this place to worship God for nearly 1000 years. After our visit, we walked down the hill to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Prayer has been offered here for centuries. According to tradition, St. Patrick used a nearby well to baptize converts to Christianity and a small church was built marking it as a scared place near the heart of Dublin. The present building dates from 1220. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, a member church of the Anglican Communion. FYI: Jonathan Swift is the most famous Dean ever associated with the Cathedral. Author of Gulliver’s Travels and many other works, Swift did much to help the disadvantaged in society. From his pulpit, still on display, he preached many lengthy sermons dealing with social justice.

Nola


View from our balcony at 6:00 AM

Welcome to Dublin

American College of Dublin, Oscar Wilde home

Trinity College Library Long Room

Molly Malone

Selda's drink

Christ Church

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Tile floor at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Famine victims of Dublin

Flower shop

View at sunset from our balcony

 

Sunday, May 14, 2017  
Today we are in St. Peter Port. Selda, Shirley and I signed up for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Jan and Linda signed up for a bike tour. Carolyn and Paul were freelancing and Betty was busy with a spa appointment and shopping.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a book based upon the German occupation during WWII. We followed in the footsteps of Juliet Ashton, Elizabeth McKenna, and Dawsy Adams (characters from the book). Our driver, Rob, drove a 1950’s bus named Tinker. (see picture) Sylvia was our tour director. Our drive was along the coast and several parishes on the island. We passed by the 800 year old Castle Cornet and visited the charming Little Chapel, a sacred 20th century creation decorated with pebbles, shells, and bits of broken china that measures just 16 feet by 9 feet and can only seat 8 people.

The weather has been great with temperatures in the 50’s and blue skies. The island is small—approximately 29 miles around the island that you could easily drive within 1.5 hours. The German bunkers from WWII are prominently visible on the island.

We returned to the ship for Tea Time at 3:00 PM in the Coral Dining Room. This was a very relaxing event for us to bring the afternoon to a close. The Captain of the Caribbean Princess announced that we will not be sailing to Cobh (Cork) due to inclimate weather. So, we will be at sea on Monday, May 15 and arrive in Dublin on Tuesday, May 16.

Enjoy the pictures. Good night from St. Peter Port.

Nola

 

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017  
The complimentary breakfast at the hotel was fantastic. Everyone is energized and ready to board the Caribbean Princess. Our transportation to the ship arrived around 12:15 PM which is only 10 minutes from the hotel.

The boarding process was very well organized and we were in our cabins by 1:15 PM. The weather is partly cloudy, with a lovely cool breeze. Luggage has arrived to our rooms and I believe all of us on board agree…NOW THE VACATION BEGINS!

We all met in the main dining room at 5:30 for dinner. For some reason Carolyn and Paul were assigned a different dining room. Shirley will check to see if this can be corrected. The ship has free technology that you can set up with your cell phone to text each other while on board. Thanks to Shirley for helping us set ours up. Selda and I have purchased a Wi-Fi package so I can send out my journaling.

Below are pictures Carolyn and Paul took of Southampton before boarding the ship. In the morning we will be stopping at the island of Guernsey. Selda and I will be taking The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tour. The tour follows the footsteps of Juliet Ashton, Elizabeth McKenna, and Dawsey Adams—characters from the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I have read. The tour also focuses on Guernsey’s German occupation during WWII.

Sweet dreams to all.

Nola

 

 

Thursday, May 11, 2017  
Shirley, Selda, and I were picked up at 12:45 PM by Ron who drove us to DFW where we met Betty. Entering the security area, our journey began with unplanned memories. Shirley was patted down with legs spread and hands in the air. It reminded her of a "blast from the past"! We moved on to la Madeleine for a bite to eat. Time was 3PM. I reached in my bag for my RIFD blocking neck pouch and discovered it was not there. I quicly called Jered, who was at my home, to ask if he saw there. In the meantime, Selda came and rechecked the bag and found a zipper compartment with a deep pocket that had the RFID blocking pouch plus my credit card and cash money for the trip. So far, all of the unplanned memories on this trip have turned out with a happy ending.

We boarded the plane and settled down for a 9.5 hour flight to Madrid, Spain where we would catch our connecting flight to London, England. The flight was a little rough for the first 45 minutes—even the flight attendants had to take their seats. When we entered the Madrid airport, we had to go through a security check. Selda was asked for documentation of her pace maker and Nola was pulled out of line to be scanned. We arrived at our gate with a few minutes to spare. Selda, however, discovered she could not find the medical ID documentation for her pacemaker. Shirley and I double checked and it was not there. I was ready to head all the way back to security, when Selda opened her passport to find the medical ID. Again, a happy ending. We boarded the plane for our 2.5 hr. flight to London.

We arrived at Terminal 5 but needed to go to Terminal 3. It was a very long walk and train ride. Betty said we had walked close to three miles. Mind you, each of us were pulling two luggage bags. Jan and Linda were there waiting on us; their flight originated from Nashville, Tennessee. About an hour later, Paul and Carolyn arrived. Their flight originated from Dallas.

Our driver Lucas, who is from Poland, arrived to take us to Southampton, England. He is a great driver. Thank goodness he brought the big van for us. We are spending the night at Novotel. The hotel is very close to the port where we will board the Caribbean Princess on Saturday morning and is a wonderful accommodation. All of us are still able to laugh and make jokes. Shirley4Travel has done an excellent job getting us here.

A new day begins in a few hours for us. Good night from Southampton, England.

Nola

 

British Isles!
March 26, 2017  
Travel…did somebody say WALK Dublin or Guernsey or Normandy? Buckle Up…fasten your seat belts…for the magical charm and adventure of the British Isles! Travel arrangements were made possible by Shirley Hudson at Shirley4Travel.com (817) 715-8705. Shirley will be on board assisted by her whimsical friend, Nola (me!).

Our group is a combination of feisty, charming, adventurous, international seasoned travelers, including: Selda (Corpus Christi), Betty, Paul & Carolyn, Nola, Shirley (Dallas), Jan, Linda (Savanah, Tennessee). Log onto www.nolaraesmith.com and vicariously experience the journey with us. I will be journaling everyday of our travel adventures. Thank you Ron Carter, my web master, for posting.

Special shout out to my very dear friend, Pat, who was scheduled to travel with us. However, due to health issues, she will not be going with us. Pat, you will be traveling with us in our hearts!

Shirley has been in contact with our group since March of 2016 orchestrating travel arrangements. She shared a presentation with the travelers in our group who were able to make it to my home on September 24, 2016. She provided us with a copy of the itinerary and additional information that was included in the presentation. For those who were not able to attend, she mailed a copy of the handouts presented. A follow up meeting was held on March 18, 2017 at the Cheese Cake Factory in Dallas where Shirley presented the group with a travel bag that included the itinerary and various reminders/suggestions for the trip. The food was great and we were able share concerns and ask questions. Shirley will be in contact with those unable to join.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~Saint Augustine

Traveling Grace!
Nola

 

 

Home | Benefits of Massage | About Me | Contact Me | Nola's Travel News | Travel Provider