Bruges is a quaint town around 15 minutes away from the port Zeebrugge. Its narrow streets and canal water ways have given rise to the name 'Venice of the North'.
I have often found that the best way to see a canal city is from the water - this allows access to the backstreets and the perspective change is always exciting. We embarked on a water boat tour in celebration of my Fathers Birthday. I love tours of cities, having the opportunity to question locals about the history of their town and learning things you most likely wouldn't have discovered alone.
The belfry of Bruges (or the bell tower) had unparalleled views over Bruges and its surrounding suburbs. No matter where I travel, or what city I am in, I always find something to climb, I love the views you can see from such a height. But more importantly, it was a building that required a 366 step climb to concur. Following this victory, what better way is there to recover than with Belgian hot chocolate?
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826):“Those who have had the pleasure to consume chocolate, are in good health. They suffer far less from small ailments that interrupt one's happiness.”
is the capital and the most populated city in Denmark. It is also home to the 'Little Mermaid' statue, sculpted as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen. She has been classified as an iconic statue alongside 'The Statue of Liberty' and 'Christ the Redeemer' but, in my opinion, she has far less impact on the viewer than either. I understand that Hans Christian Anderson is iconic, the original writer of one of the best known Disney films, a famous Dane - but the tribute to him is, in itself, disappointing and highly over-rated.
Connie Neilsen -If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarrelling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old - somebody who takes good care of things and of people.
Nyhaven - one of the most recognisable areas of Copenhagen - is home to a collection of coloured houses alongside the waterfront. From this harbour many boat excursions depart, allowing witness of Copenhagen from the sea and from the cities canals. The Danish author - Hans Christian Andersen - lived here and his house is memorialised with a simple plaque.
The Marble Church, or Frederick's Church, is a notable building in the Frederiksstaden region of Copenhagen. Its Rococo architecture and large dome (31m and the largest in Scandinavia) was probably based on St Peters Basilica in Rome. This building acts as a central point of the city and allows you to find your way around. However, the streets of Copenhagen are easy to follow and don't provide much in the hope of getting lost. You shouldn't let this point put you off, the streets are beautiful and have a wealth of interesting shops and local cafes.
Before travelling to Copenhagen, I heard the rumours that the coffee is expensive and you can not afford the beer. After spending a short amount of time here, I quickly understood that these rumours are not the truth - the prices resemble those of England, not those of Switzerland!
Rosenborg Slot is a renaissance castle built by Christian IV in 1605 and used as a royal residence until 1705. Today it features period rooms and homes the Danish Crown Jewels.
Helsingborg is the closest point between Sweden and Denmark and, resultantly, has much history. During many of the Scandinavian wars, Helsingborg was central to control of the Strait. Previously of Danish control, Helsingborg has been under Swedish protection since the 17th Century.
Kärnan is the only remains of the Helsingborg fortress, the strongest in Scandinavia during the middle ages. Situated upon a hill over the city, it provides spectacular views across to Denmark.
Helsingborg is a very modern city with a large harbour which is home to many yachts. The city itself has a blend of small alley ways which were built 600 years ago to many modern and wide avenues which feature in the shopping district. The town hall situates a 65 metre bell tower that can be heard across the city throughout the day.
The final stopover was in Oslo - home of the Vikings. When I was very young my best friend went to Norway on a skiing holiday and visited Oslo whilst she was there - since then, the city has held a fascination to me. This, combined with my interest in Vikings and Norse religion, made Oslo my most anticipated stop on the cruise.
These ships were amazing to witness, the detail is outstanding and imagining a group of strong men using these boats to travel from Scandinavia to England all those years ago is incredible. It was a mammoth task which was completed because of their Earls ambition - a huge risk at the time, but one that came with massive reward.
Also on this island is the Kon-Tiki museum which houses the Kon-Tiki vessel.
The Oslo Opera House is an innovation in design with the exterior made purely of marble. The surrounding bell tower, cathedral and city hall have a very different aesthetic design.
The strong white contrast in the city created a very modernistic and contemporary feel to the building. From this building we were able to obtain spectacular views across the low sky-line of Oslo.
The last day included another Formal Dinner and the return trip to Southampton (not to mention Afternoon Tea!).