Baltic Cruise – Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour

Next to St Petersburg, walking the walled “Old Town”, with its well preserved 13th Century narrow, winding cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this was one of our pre-cruise highlights. Tallinn, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, was originally home to wealthy merchants, but now with a plethora of cafes, restaurants/bars, museums and churches, it is now a popular tourist destination.

Being mid-September, it was approaching the end of the season and we were the only cruise ship in town, so the crowds were reasonable. During mid-summer with up to 6 mega cruise ships, it can be extremely busy, as most tours follow a similar route.

In 1997, the well preserved “Old City” was incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Baltic Cruise – Tallinn, Estonia (Part 1)

After a long day visiting Berlin, we enjoyed a relaxing, full day at sea, before docking in Tallinn, the following day about 11:00. Perfect timing, as after a leisurely breakfast, I wandered up to the Sun Deck on a rather blustery day, to watch the arrival.

In Tallinn, we booked a 5 hr city highlights and Old Town Walking Tour with Alla Tours, the same company we are using in St Petersburg. Our group of 5 passengers met our excellent guide and driver outside the dock gate, which was the start of an exceptional tour – vastly superior to the 50 seat tour bus the ship provides.

This post covers the city drive portion and the following post will cover the Old Town walking tour.

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Baltic Cruise – Berlin

After cancelling Copenhagen, our first port of call became Warnemunde, the port for Rostock, Germany.

Alongside for about 16 hours, we could easily visit many of the local attractions, but Berlin, only 150 miles away, was really tempting. As a child, Judi lived in West Germany, while her dad was stationed at an RCAF base, but Berlin was off-limits, being 100 miles inside East Germany. For me, it was my first ever visit to Germany, so we both wanted to see Berlin.

We opted for a ship’s tour to Berlin, a really long 13 hour day, most of which we spent on the bus, but it was worth it.

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Baltic Cruise – MV Columbus

During our extended 5-months in UK, we spent many weeks with my dad and toured extensively throughout Scotland and England. However, we had another objective and that was a return to cruising, after a 2-year hiatus. Since we started cruising in the late 90’s, this was our longest gap between cruises.

Based on our experiences on the 2015 World Cruise, we will never cruise with Princess again, so read on to discover how we opted for Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV).

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Tower of London Ceremony of the Keys

The Tower of London houses the Crown Jewels, so one assumes it is a secure facility, with the gates locked at night.

How about an opportunity to assist closing and locking the Tower gates in the evening!! Well you don’t actually assist, but you do get to watch this long standing daily ritual, known as “The Ceremony of the Keys.” Having taken place daily, rain or shine for over 700 years, I believe long standing is an apt description.

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London – Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and Fire of London Monument

On our 2nd day in London, we had tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys, at the Tower, in the evening. Judi opted for a quiet day, while I visited some of the locations around our hotel.

I planned a round trip – Tower Bridge, south embankment, HMS Belfast, London Bridge, the Great Fire of London Monument, then back to the hotel along the north bank of the Thames.

It was a pleasant day, so I enjoyed an excellent walk, visiting some interesting attractions.

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London – Buckingham Palace “Royal Day Out”

In mid-September, our extended 5-month UK trip was coming to a close, as we departed Strathkinness for the final time, bound for London. A one-way trip to London normally has many options – flying, driving or train. However with over 200lbs of baggage, flying wasn’t an option and having driven over 7,000 miles, in the past few months, I didn’t need more practice on the left side of the road. This left the train, so we booked seats on Virgin East Coast from Leuchars to London Kings Cross.

We had 2 days in London, before joining our Baltic Cruise in Tilbury. As usual, both days were packed with sight-seeing, with the first day being a “Royal Day Out” at Buckingham Palace.

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Rangers FC Match Day Hospitality

My grandfather had season tickets at Ibrox, as did my dad for many years, so little wonder, I am a “Died in the Wool” bluenose. I may have spent almost 40 years in Canada, but I still follow Rangers F.C. Although I can’t get to the matches every week, I still keep abreast of news, follow the scores and watch matches on the telly.

So it goes without saying, when in UK, I always try to get tickets for a home match. Just after we arrived in Strathkinness, back in May, we got tickets for the last home game of last season. During our final 2 weeks in Strathkinness, we didn’t have many options, as Rangers only had 1 home match on September 9th. Continue reading

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2017

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of performances, comprising the UK Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, a Tattoo dance company and various artistic performers. It is held during August, rain or shine, at the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

On August 26th, we attended the final performance of the 2017 Tattoo, which I consider is Edinburgh’s premier summer performance. With the inaugural show in 1950, the Tattoo has just completed the 68th continuous annual series of performances, with the last 18 years being completely sold out.

I specifically left the camera at home, so that I could enjoy the show live, and not through a camera view finder.

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Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia

Judi and I returned to the St Andrews area at the end of August, spending another 2 weeks with my dad, before heading down to London for our Baltic Cruise.

HMY Britannia, is secured at Ocean Terminal in Leith and is billed as Scotland’s premier attraction. We had already visited Windsor Castle and have tickets for the Royal Day out at Buckingham Palace, so a trip to visit the RY Britannia was high on the list of places to visit.

It is only about 40 miles from St Andrews and with excellent train service to Edinburgh, it is an easy day out.

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