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Holland American Koningsdam
Norwegian Fjords Cruise -
plus Barcelona & Andorra

July, 2017

click here to see our cruise itinerary
Amersfoort, Netherlands is a town with many canals and lovely buildings from the 15th Century.   We had to duck a few times when we took the Waterlijn canal boat tour through the beautiful old town.
The canal banks were filled with flowers, bicycles, historic buildings and cafes.   The main square (The Hof) in front of our hotel holds market days on Fridays and Saturdays. Tents display flowers, vegetables, fish, prepared foods, baked goods, cheese wheels and clothing.
We took a 25 minute train ride to nearby Apeldoorn to visit friends. But first we toured the Paleis Het Loo. It was the palace of Dutch Royalty from the 17th - 20th Century.   The extensive gardens at the rear of the Palace showed off the power and wealth of the kings and queens during those years.
Afterward, we were invited to the beautiful home of our friends. The perfectly manicured backyard was full of seasonal flowers.
We enjoyed drinks and a large array of snacks- sausage, fish, nuts, Brie cheese, bread, crackers and olives - in the outdoor lounge area. Then we had supper - a delicious Indian curry dish served with Naan bread and chutney - on the corner dining deck. Brandaan, his wife Saskia, and daughters, Esmee and Maura were the perfect hosts.

Amersfoort lodging:
Lodgement de Gaaper, Hof 39- an inn on the Main Square (Hoff) in the center of the Old city- wonderful, friendly management, perfect location

Amersfoort dining:
Alberts Eten & Drinken - also located in the Main Square (Hof) - good drink & food prices, great atmosphere

Dara -on the canal across from the City Library- great atmosphere sitting on the terrace - good Mediterranean/Morracan food, tangines, wraps

Lorenza Pizzeria - in the square below the Lang Jan clock tower - wonderful Lorenza seafood pasta (shrimp, scallops, mussels, crab), nice house salad

This is the entrance to the stone Domkirke (Cathedral) in Stavenger, Norway (pronounced stuh véng er). It is 895 years old and has been in continuous use since it began.   Our ship looked like a toy boat under the mountains of the Eidfjord harbor.
We took a bus ride 20 minutes outside the city through long tunnels and valleys to see the 600 ft. drop of the Vøringsfossen waterfall. Notice the hotel at the top right of the picture to realize the scale of the majestic landscape.   Since it was raining, snowing and the sun was shining all at the same time; a rainbow appeared. Even though it was mid-July, snow stayed on the mountain tops and we wore coats and gloves.
Just outside the city of Alesund was an outdoor museum of a collection of old buildings including this kyrkjebuer from 1750. Here is where local people, who were dirty from work or travel, would wash up before entering the nearby church. All the structures were built entirely of wood, including the peg "nails". Grass roofs helped insulate them and were "mowed" by a goat placed on the roof for the day.
We took long underwater tunnels and tall bridges to visit several sparcely populated islands around the city.   Waffels are a popular dish at every meal of the day. These savory waffles are topped with proscuitto ham, brie cheese, watercress, mayo and lingonberry sauce.
Electric cars for 2 people (one sits behind the other) make sense here. The roads are narrow and gas runs about $8/gallon.   The downtown streets are lined with Art Deco buildings, all built since 1904, when a fire destroyed the original town.
We were lucky to have a clear view from the lookout area above the city. Most of the day was cool and cloudy, with some showers; but the early mornings and late afternoons were sunny.
We took a wonderful walking tour around the city of Trondheim; beginning in the main traffic circle.   Just down the street was the Royal Residence, which houses the Danish monarch whenever they are in town. The easy accessiblity is incredible in today's world. We walked from the front around to the back without seeing a guard.
In the Fish Market, located right on the harbor; huge slabs of salmon, cod and smoked fish were neatly arranged; but this whale meat was the first we had seen for sale. The price was about $15/lb.   We were lucky to enjoy a cool, but windless, sunny day; so the views of the colorful houses from the Old Town Bridge were cheerful.
The municipal bicycle lift has a track that holds both bicycle and rider to get to the top of a steep hill. The ride costs $20, so we saw most people just walk their bikes up.   The impressive façade of the Cathedral of Trondheim rivaled those of other great European cities, but the country itself does not seem very religious. Most churches (almost all Lutheran) were closed during the week and sparcely attended for services. Many were used for concerts or as a meeting hall.
North Cape is at the end of a long cliff only 18° from the North Pole. We entered the island of Mageroy through Honningsvåg, Europe's northernmost city.   We walked out to the end of the cliff, where a globe sculpture marks the location of the northernmost point.
As we drove around the island, we saw herds of wild reindeer resting in snow drifts and enjoying the summer grasses. Snow gates stood behind them to keep snow from blowing across the road in winter.   We were able to visit a Sami family (local indiginous people) who wore traditional clothing and herded reindeer.
The Geiranger fjord is what we had been expecting in Norway, and this area did not disappoint. We loved sailing the narrow passage with high cliffs and lots of waterfalls, like the Seven Sisters.
Trolls are seen everywhere - posing in yards and public areas. They are a large part of Norwegian folklore.   We took an hour bus ride up to snow covered Mt. Dalsnibba. The mountain lakes were clear and calm.
Looking back past our winding road, we could see our ship way down below in the green valley.
In Bergen, furs and warm clothing; local berries; live Norwegian king crabs; plus reindeer, whale and moose sausages were sold under tents at the Fish Market.
From the small village of Flåm, we took what is billed as the most spectacular train ride in Norway, the Flåmsbana. The ride was narrated in Norwegian, English and Japanese; and provided maps and video screens with pictures of sites along the way.   We took a short stop at a viewing platform next to the Kjosfossen waterfall. Norwegian folk music played, while a Huldra (forest spirit) danced nearby.
The train ride was two hours long and went through 20 tunnels and over one bridge. We were lucky to enjoy clear skies and great vistas of small, remote villages.
We had a great day in the city of Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra. The city is known for skiing and shopping.   We climbed up the side of the mountain to walk along a path that rims the city below.
After that we had an enormous lunch at El Grill, a buffet inside the famous Pyrenees Mall. This lunch included large grilled prawns, razor clams, grilled chops and steaks made to order, foie gras and all the beer/wine/cava champagne you cared to drink - all for $20 USD.   We didn't try any horse meat, although it was available at a local fesival food tent.
Back in Barcelona, we were wowed once again during our visit to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Although we had been there several times in the past, each year more of the church is completed. The inside is an amazing creation of columns made from different stones to represent different trees in a forest. Light filters through from the ceiling like through leaves in a tree canopy. The staff is saying that completion of the cathedral is projected for 2026. We're doubtful that that will happen; but we want to go back when it is finished.
But the highlight of our visit was spending time with our friends Esti and Adam!