Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

There are only
two more days of the cruise. Holy shit. Tomorrow we’re going to Edinburgh, and
then we have one last sea day… and then we get to London, and it’s back to New

[24 hours of Sunlight is no joke!]





Today we went to
Kirkwall, which is part of the Orkney Islands, which is in Scotland. The Orkney
Islands are believed to have been populated for at least 8,500 years.  Kirkwall, itself, was a Viking town that was
founded around 1035. It is the largest town and the capital of the Orkney
Islands. The population of Kirkwall is 9,293 people, the official language is
English, and the currency is the Great Britain Pound. Kirkwall has a temperate
climate with a relatively low rainfall and not a great deal of ice or snow in
the winter months. The year-round average temperature is around 46 degrees
Fahrenheit, but summers can hover at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The name
Kirkwall is derived from the Norse word Kirkjuvagr, which translates to Church

Our excursion
started very early today.  We had to be
in the cabaret lounge by 10 am.  Though
10 am seems awesome considering for Edinburgh tomorrow, we need to be ready to
go by 9 am. I woke up early, showered, and went upstairs to breakfast by
myself. Breakfast was crowded probably because of all the excursions, so I
asked some random lady if I could sit at her table and she said yes.  I intended to finish the last book in the
“True Blood” book series at breakfast [and in case you’re curious, I’ve read 15
books on this cruise already, the cruise is 16 days, we’re on Day 13, so that
averages to sometimes more than one book a day], but the lady I sat with was
very talkative and I didn’t want to be rude, so I talked to her.  She told me I looked really young, so yay for
that, I don’t look my age, but then she asked what I did as a job, and I told
her I was teacher, and turns out both her daughters are also teachers, in
California, so we talked about teaching for awhile. Then her husband came to
get her, so she left, and another woman, whom we’ve had meals with before
recognized me and asked if she could sit with me, and she introduced me to her husband
as her “sweet and silent friend” referencing the fact that I’m always reading.

On my way out of
breakfast, I high-fived Vesko because he was working the breakfast buffet and
told him I’d see him at dinner. I met up with mom and we got ready for our
tour. We went on The “Orkney Island drive,” which is described as “travel the
short distance from Kirkwall to the Standing Stones of Stenness, a circular
henge, some 100 feet in diameter. Only four stones remain standing from the
original ring. Like the nearby Ring of Brodgar [which sounds like something out
of a lord of the rings novel to me], the Stones of Stenness appear to have
aligned with the sun and moon at solstices and equinoxes. Continue along the
shore of Scapa Flow, the base for the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet during two world
wars. Visit the Italian Chapel, built by Italian Prisoners brought to Scapa
Flow to work on the harbor’s defenses. During their sojourn, they built the
chapel out of leftover Quonset huts. The Chapel features delicate wrought-iron
tracery and frescoes painted by the artist Dominico Chiocchetti. The Chapel
remains one of the most visited spots in the Orkneys.”

Kirkwall was a
pretty place. There were a lot of green hills, Blue Ocean, and cows and sheep
everywhere. The guide said that the sheep and cows outnumber the citizens of
the Orkney Islands. The whole area looked like something out of the shire from
Lord of the Rings. Even the houses were little and cute, and interestingly
enough, every single house seemed to have a name. The name that hung on the
house wasn’t a family name; it was just a name for the residency. Like Harry
Dresden says in “The Dresden Files,” names give things power.  But despite the fact that the houses all look
very old-fashioned, they were very advanced and had things like solar panels on
their roofs.

The Stones of
Stenness were these gigantic monoliths that looked like something out of 2001:
A Space Odyssey. One of the stones was knocked over, and our guide told us that
that one was called “the odinstone” and couples who stood beside the stone had
to pledge their love to each other for a year.
The Scapa Flow was very pretty; it links the North Sea to the Atlantic
Ocean. The Italian Chapel was interesting enough.  There were tons of baby lambs and baby cows
with their mommies and daddies since it’s the season, where most farm animals
give birth. I even saw some swan babies and a lone seal.  The drive was very nice, and Kirkwall is
gorgeous. I love how houses in Europe have such personalities, they’re so
different from the McMansions that we have in the United States, or the Smurf
Villages of New Construction.













































Our tour was
only three hours, so we got back to the ship early. Mom and I went to have some
lunch, and we sat with a couple, whom we had sat with before. They’re actually
disembarking at the next stop, Dundee, to play golf at St. Andrews, which is
this really famous golf course. I called my dad and we talked for a little

Then I got back
to the room and discovered I could get the free wifi from the dock in my cabin.
So I uploaded all the pictures I had been taking to Facebook, so all my friends
could see them, and send an email to my husband. And I talked to a few of my
friends and told them how awesome Iceland was, and then Justin finally woke up,
and we still had about two hours until we had to leave, so I took my laptop out
to the balcony, and managed to get Skype working, and I got to see and talk to
Justin for an hour, which was awesome, since I hadn’t “seen” him since right
before the cruise, and I also got to see my kitties on Skype, so that made me
happy. So he and I talked right until it was time to disembark and that was
literally the highlight of my day, even though Kirkwall was pretty.

Before dinner, I
just sat on my bed and read on my kindle. I started “The Wonderful Wizard of
Oz”, which I heard is a creepy book. I’m onto my classic backups because I
finished most of the newish books I downloaded.
I can’t wait to get to Heathrow, so I can download some newer books over
wifi. To be honest, I should’ve remembered to do that when I had wifi before,
oh well.

Both Martine and
Pierre were at dinner. It was Italian night, and all the waiters were dressed
in Italian Shirts and scarves, and they were playing Italian music in the
dining room. For an appetizer, I had eggplant parm, and for a meal I had this
sort of seafood shepherds pie? It had scallops and shrimp in it, but was
covered with the cheesy mashed potatoes, it was pretty good. For dessert, I had
some sort of chocolate flavored jello? It was really yummy. Mom, Martine,
Pierre, and I talked all throughout dinner; we were actually one of the last tables
to leave the dining room today because we were all talking so much.

Tonight is the
first night that it’s actually sort of dark out, after almost a week of 24
hours of sunlight. Maybe that means I’ll sleep better.

Tomorrow we go
to Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m pretty excited about it. And after that it’s our
last sea day, and then the cruise is basically over, and I get to spend 8.5
hours in an airport waiting for our flight back to the states.

It’s hard to
believe that my 16 day adventure is about the end, and I just finished Day 13.

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