31 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 11 - conclusion

Sunday & Monday, 19 & 20 May
Our last day at sea starts off very hot. There's not so much a whisper of wind. We have to attend an info session about the disembarking procedure and afterwards we quickly go and find a quiet sunny spot to do some reading (I finally start the Curious Incident … I love it!) Around 2 pm the weather starts to change…there's a fog coming up quite rapidly and all of a sudden a strong wind appears out of nowhere. one by one, people leave the deck and so do we to have a bite to eat. When we're done eating, you can hardly see anything anymore because of the fog (think some pirates' movie when something wicked is about to happen…that was the feeling you got when you saw all that mist!)
So we recline in our cabin and start preparing our suitcases. These have to be ready before we go to bed cause they pick them up to collect them during the night.
In the evening, it's our last gala evening with a spectacular show. We go and collect our drinks (vodka! cognac!) at the duty free shop (you can't have alcohol in your cabin, except wine you have bought in the restaurant) and go to bed.
It's noticeably colder in the cabin. Yep, we're approaching Amsterdam! We arrive right on time (9am) and disembarkation goes very swiftly. The bus that has to take us to Antwerp is (again) late. But the drive doesn't take that long because it's rather quiet on the road due to it being a bank holiday. We arrive in Antwerp, take our cab home and arrive at 3pm. 
And so a wonderful, sunny, beautiful trip has come to an end….  

30 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 10

Saturday, 18 May
We arrive in Copenhagen right on time despite having left st Petersburg an hour and a half late. Weather is just too good to be true: blue skies and incredible temperatures. At times it was around 30 degrees if not more. 
We set off and first encountered the Little Mermaid, then went into the city where we visited some churches (we are both atheists, but I love the architecture of churches and cathedrals) and they were really impressive. Especially Frederiks Kirke. Then onwards to the summer palace of the monarchy, onwards to Nyhavn, the shopping street, city hall and tivoli. There was something special going on in the shopping street because for hours and hours, groups from South America were dancing in the street. In bikinis.  
Then we had lunch at the Grand Theater (quiche with mushrooms), then onwards to Christiansborg, and back to the shopping area. 
There are a lot of quaint shops in the smaller streets!
After that, we headed towards the port and walked across Churchillparc and finally ended at the shops across the dock where our ship was moored. I bought a skirt and shirt with 30% reduction. Both Inwear. 
Once on board, we had a piña colada and got ready for dinner. The show this evening was Ikè, inspired by the Norse gods. There were some stunning balancing acts. 
Dinner was great again: salad, risotto with shrimp and mushrooms, grilled sea bream with pepper stuffed with rice and papaya ice cream. 
We're now having a glass of white wine. Tomorrow our last sea day. Hoping to be able to do more sunbathing on deck!

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29 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 9

Friday, 17 May
Today, we had another sea day. We woke up at 10am after a good night's sleep and went up to have our breakfast....obviously many others had the same idea. No wonder, st Petersburg was exhausting. 
Then we went to some shops and did some reading in l'Ametista bar. Had lunch (pasta) and then went to level 14 for some sunbathing. Weather was gorgeous. Many sat there in there in their swimsuits. 
I had an appointment at 5.30pm for a facial, so we went to the aurora spa for a sauna and whirlpool session first....I can't get enough of sitting there on the whirlpool watching the world go by. 
Then it was time for my facial treatment...divine...I felt so relaxed afterwards and my face super soft and radiant. 
I was of course a tad late for the evening show but did catch the main act. Fantastic acrobatic act!
Then dinner. As it was Italian day, we had a special menu: calamari, Italian salad with mozzarella, pasta with clams, mixed fish grill and then the waiters paraded a huge tiramisu around (divine!). 
Afterwards, we had some limoncello as well. 
We took some white wine into our cabin, which we are enjoying now. 
Tomorrow Copenhagen. 

28 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 8

Thursday, 16 May
We rise and shine (not) at 6am for our day trip to Petrodvorets and the Hermitage. Weather is once again stunning and traffic is once again awful. We spend hours trying to get to Petrodvorets palace where we are faced with some tough as nails babouchkas but eventually we get in. The palace is beautiful. It was the summer palace of Catherina the great and all the chambers are rather small compared to other palaces but that just increases the appeal. The Turkish sofa is quite something. (she entertained her many lovers here...not all at once)
The gardens are mind blowing. Fountains, gold statues, chequered patterns...
We have a great guide who talks about life in Russia, the various presidents, and how so much treasure was saved from the war by sending everything to Siberia until the war was over. They used the many gowns of the empress to shield everything from harm. 
After that, we have our lunch (starting with a glass of vodka) and then set off to visit the hermitage. We have to run our stuff through a scanner and are then faced with hundreds and hundreds of visitors. 
It's mad but it's impressive. The old winter palace houses some great collections of impressionists, but also Picasso, Rembrandt, Titian, etc etc. plus the peacock clock that goes off once a week and is quite a spectacle. I was most amazed by this visit. Just stunning. 
After that, we get some time for shopping and I buy some souvenirs and an amber ring. 
We head back to the ship that was meant to set sail at 7pm but because of heavy traffic, one group only arrived at 8.15pm! So, we are now 1,5 hours behind schedule. 
For dinner I had the salad, pasta with tomato sauce and mushroom, grilled salmon with spinach and a Sacher torte. 
We are now relaxing in our cabin..sun is setting slowly (it's 10.15pm).time goes back one hour tonight and we have nothing planned tomorrow except a facial massage for me. So that'll be an afternoon of wellness. And they predict 20 degrees again. :-)

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27 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 7

Wednesday, 15 May
We had to get up at an ungodly hour cause our ship moored at 7am and our trip started at 7.30am. That in combination with the extra hour ahead proves lethal. And then there's the traffic. We spend hours just getting to centre of town, which is really close. Because of traffic works on one of the bridges, traffic is mayhem. And there's immigration that works as quickly or slowly  as they fancy. 
In the morning, we go to Pushkin where we visit the palace of Catherina the Great. It's a beautiful palace, very over the top, with a room made of amber. 
After that, we return and have a verrrrry quick bite to eat, and then regroup for the afternoon excursion. Because we only have group visas, we can't stroll alone in town. We can only leave the ship if we've booked an excursion. 
The excursion takes us to St. Peter and St. Paul (where all the Romanovs are buried), church of spilled blood (stunning), and basically the rest of this huge city. 
We then do a cruise on river Neva. With (sadly) a folklore group and (happily) russian sekt. The views are great, and the weather is still amazing. Yet again a very hot sunny day!
We are just in time for our final trip...Swan Lake at the ballet! Obviously stunning. 
Afterwards we return to the ship and after more frustration at immigration, we quickly go for our first hot meal of the day: spanking hot fresh pizza with Chardonnay. Man, we were hungry. 
It's now midnight, and I'm just so tired. Tomorrow it's an early start again for our second and last day here. Btw, the sunset ended at 11 pm. 

26 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 6

Tuesday, 14 May
We arrive in Tallinn slightly earlier than expected so by 9 am we're alreading walking towards the centre of town. Tallinn is tiny yet very beautiful. I visited Riga once and I must say that there's quite a difference, especially in the people. They seem much more friendly in Tallinn. 
The weather is just amazing. Again 20 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky. 
We basically just walk every street, see every church of town. And we're impressed. We have a prosecco at the town square, then do some shopping (I find some gorgeous cat earrings…for me, not my cats) and then have the best panini I ever tasted in a brand new bistro run by an Italian couple. 
Then some more shopping, including an old apothecary that now houses antique shops, where find something a friend of mine asked for. And they have some strange wartime stuff...including a Hitler mantlepiece clock. Eh?
We round off our trip with a glass of wine in the Irish pub. Then head back towards the Magnifica and there are loads of gift stalls in front of the terminal. I find a beautiful green corsage brooch. 
The cruise ship next to us (P&O) wave us goodbye by playing Strauss' Radetzky March and everyone clapping in tune. Really lovely!
Then it's time to get ready for our second gala evening. We get a show about Dracula with Queen and INXS songs...mmyes. And two amazing acrobatic acts. 
Dinner was shrimp, salad, pumpkin soup and steak with roasted mushrooms and gratin, and dark chocolate parfait. 
The waiter from Bali draws me a lovely image on a small piece of paper (now hanging in the kitchen). 
Tomorrow st Petersburg. Our day trip starts at 7.30 am...and clocks go forward again. Sigh.

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25 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe - pictures

You can now find a 'small' selection of my travel pics here.


Travel: cruise Northern Europe part 5

Monday, 13 May
Today we arrive in Stockholm right on time (9am) so we got up earlier to be ready to disembark. 
It's about 2,6 km to town from the cruise terminal and the walk already gives us a great panoramic view of the city. The weather is very lovely: sunny and warm. 
We first visit the old city centre, Gamla Stan with its Palace, Noble museum, cathedral, churches, ... Then head towards the newer part of town where we walk through the parc, do some shopping, have a latte,...
Then onwards to the city hall and back towards the old town where we browse the shopping streets. I buy some souvenirs (an iPhone cover with a moose ;-) and an owl thermometer). We have some pastry and coffee and then walk back all along the water to arrive back in time (4pm).  
After a Cuba libre we go to our cabin to enjoy the beautiful scenery when we glide out of Stockholm into the fjord. We planned to catch the musical show but since it was such lovely weather and the scenery was so stunning, we gave it a miss and enjoyed the view from our balcony. 
Dinner was delicious again: a mixed salad, macaroni with a great sauce, salmon in a potato crust with asparagus mousse and clafoutis. 
Since the time changed that night (one hour forward), we gave it an early night.

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24 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 4

Sunday, 12 May
It's a very sunny morning as we cross the Danish and Swedish coast. After breakfast, we take a stroll around the deck and then go to l'Ametista bar for a quiet read...followed by some cocktails. I have an appointment at 1 pm for a 45 min. Balinese massage....and it's just so relaxing. I'll definitely go and find one at home. She massages every part of my body up until each finger and each toe. She also advises some skincare products which I buy with 20% reduction.
Feeling rejuvenated, we have our lunch at the buffet restaurant and then read some more...to be honest, 2 sea days in a row is a bit much but we make the most of it by catching up on lots of reading matter. 
We have some cava and then in the evening, there's a concert with music by Verdi and Puccini, followed by dinner. I'm having the melon and prosciutto, salad with citrus fruit, risotto with mozzarella and a banana/coconut tart. 
Ending the day with some more wine in our cabin, we are ready for our arrival in Stockholm early next morning. 

23 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe Part 3

Saturday, 11 May
We wake up to a very misty sight. The decks are full of water because of the bad weather conditions. It's the first of our 2 consecutive sea days where we'll be passing Denmark. 
After breakfast we raid the liquor shop and get a great bargain there when buying cognac. 
After some quiet time reading, we have lunch (penne with basilicum tomato sauce) and then I head towards the spa. I prebooked a Balinese massage, a facial and also have unlimited access to the sauna/hammam/whirlpool. 
And man, it's just heaven to sit on your whirlpool watching the sea pass by. They also make the best fresh smoothies. 
After that, it was time to get ready for the gala dinner. Tonight we'd get a special captain's night with show. Gala attire required. My boyfriend gets into his best suit and I wear my Manoukian charleston dress. We first get a few glasses of cava and then a really lovely show with music and acrobatics. 
Then it's time for dinner again and I have the salmon, a Greek salad, beef with mushrooms and pana cotta with berries. 
We take along a bottle of wine to drink in the cabin. Ready for another (stormy?) night. Oh, before we go to the cabin, I buy a gorgeous Swarovski necklace and get 33% discount!!

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22 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 2

Friday, 10 May
We arrive in Hamburg at 10.30 am and the weather is gorgeous. It a huge party there to celebrate the anniversary of the port, with food and drink stalls everywhere, many boats, fairground attractions,...
We disembark swiftly and start our stroll around town, passing st Pauli, going into the Elbe tunnel, heading towards city hall, Alster lake, doing some shopping (I buy some clothes at H&M), having wine and apple strudel, and then towards speicherstadt and surroundings. 
Despite some clouds, the weather is quite sunny. We head back towards the harbour where I have some poffertjes and buy 2 lovely owl scarfs. 
We embark again at 6.45 pm after our explorations and are just in time for our compulsory safety drill, including a lot of hilarity.
We have our dinner at the buffet restaurant while we float through the harbour, our ship 'singing' happy birthday to the city. The view is amazing and the whole exit just magical with all the people cheering towards us and the whole city alight. 
We have a final cocktail in the bar before going to bed. It'll be a stormy night, apparently the ship has rocked like crazy but I slept like a baby. ;-)

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T-shirt & short sleeved cardigan (H&M)

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owl scarfs (market)

21 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 1

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThursday, 9 May
We are picked up by our cab 20 min. early and arrive in Antwerp 2 hours early but when we drive towards our port of embarkation, our driver gets totally lost in the Dutch countryside. We arrive at our ship 20 min before embarkation and I'm nauseous cause of nerves. 
We are ushered into the ship with hardly any safety measurements. 
We get our cruise card and find our cabin, with a great balcony. 
At 3pm sharp, the Magnifica starts its journey from Amsterdam and we begin exploring the ship. Afterwards, we have our first cocktails and then get ready for dinner. I take the salmon, followed by a wiener schnitzel and a duo of chocolate parfait. 
We have another cocktail and then go to bed after a very nerve wrecking day. 

(a link with a selection of pictures will follow later on)

8 May 2013

Travel: Cruising away

Tomorrow, we're off on our holiday cruise towards North Europe.

If all goes right, you'll be able to read my travel journal here.

See ya later! :-)

7 May 2013

Beauty : Jason Pure Natural Super-C toner

I've been trying out a few products out of Jason's range and the latest product I tested is the toner with vitamin C.

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4 May 2013

Shopping: new stuff

Bought a new black dress (you can never have enough black dresses cause they are ideal for every occasion). Next to that, I realised I never showed off my Bowie tote bag from the V&A exhibit. They were sold out at the time, much to my dismay, but I ordered one online...And I love it!