Hamburg

Our flight to Hamburg, Germany had a layover in Zurich which, of course, we missed the connection. Air Canada had booked a very tight layover, only one hour, and we were delayed over an hour departing Toronto which meant we were landing in Zurich as our connecting flight was taking off for Hamburg.

Very efficient transfer though. SwissAir had already rebooked us on the next available flight. The layover was now at four hours.

Long day for travelling.

We picked the 25hours Hotel in Hamburg as our base for the four days we would be in this city. Two days prior to embarkation and two days after disembarkation.

Here is a video walkthrough of our funky hotel room:

And a few photos from our first day in Hamburg.

We had no particular itinerary for this day. The plan was to stay awake as long as possible and attempt to readjust our biological clocks to the six hour time zone shift.

The first thing I noticed was the unique architecture of this part of the city.

So many modern office towers and almost all of them built from glass patterns like this one pictured above.

There are numerous canals that extend into Hamburg with wide walkways. Notice the geometric perfection of the new construction? In the new part of Hamburg, most of the architecture featured squares and rectangles.

The older parts of Hamburg also seemed geometric. Predominantly built with brown bricks.

Some of the architecture played with angles and curves like this modern condo tower.

Numerous sidewalk cafes in Hamburg. We had supper at one such cafe. I had my first German Diet Coke: fritz-kola. Ohne Zucker, captioned underneath the fritz-kola brand, means Sugar Free. Lorraine had raspberry iced tea.

The food trucks are definitely a step up from those we find in North America.

A unique home right on the edge of one of the canals.

Proof that Lorraine was in Hamburg. We had great fun trying to figure out what to see in this part of Hamburg. As the map suggested: Was ist wo in der HafenCity?

We had a chance to walk through the St. Nikolai Memorial. This site is Hamburg’s most important memorial for the victims of war between 1933-1945. During the bombing raids on Hamburg, the church tower served allied pilots as a point of orientation. During Operation Gomorrha in 1943, along with the 270,000 homes that were destroyed, the church was hit as well. Approximately 35,000 people were killed at the time. The ruins of the church were blackened by the raging fires although from a distance, the dark areas seem to blend into the main spire which survived the intense bombing raid..

Wonderful streets and cafes to explore in Hamburg.

We managed to stay up until 10pm local time in Hamburg — 4am in Kingston. Sunset in this part of Europe was around 9:30pm which helped us to stay awake.

Toronto

Kingston.

It is a wonderful town. The only thing it lacks? An international airport.

To get ourselves out to our Norwegian cruise, we needed to book a train from Kingston to downtown Toronto, a train from downtown Toronto to Toronto Pearson Airport, a flight from Toronto for Zurich and then, with only a one-hour layover, a flight from Zurich to Hamburg. And, once in Hamburg, board our cruise ship to enjoy Norway.

Cleaver’s rule of cruising: arrive one day early. In our case, that meant a day early in Toronto as well as a day early in Hamburg.

Having been a frequent traveller during my corporate career, I have encountered many, many delays while travelling.

Cruise ships won’t wait. If you miss the departure day, you have to catch the ship at the next port of call.

The trains in Canada are not great. Schedules are more like suggestions. We might plan to arrive at a certain time but that could be plus or minus several hours.

From Kingston to Toronto, our train was fairly close to schedule arriving about 40 minutes late. Via Rail is running old stock though. The cars are old, worn out and look a bit like something you might expect to see in an impoverished country. I agree with this recent article on our train system: we can do better.

Arriving into Union Station, it was a quick and easy walk to our hotel, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. We’ve stayed numerous times at this small boutique hotel in downtown Toronto. Lovely place and great service.

The arena formerly know as the Air Canada Centre, now renamed the Scotiabank Arena, reminds us that we are still in Canada.

Hockey, eh?

Lorraine and I spent the day in Toronto walking through the harbour front. It is shocking to me how much the skyline in Toronto has changed in the past ten years.

I used to be an executive with a large Canadian bank in downtown Toronto. These buildings near the Queen’s Quay did not exist back then.

The waterfront has also changed dramatically over the past decade but not if you look out to the water. The Toronto ferry still goes back and forth to Toronto Centre Island. And there are no condos on the island.

Toronto’s CN Tower is visible from almost everywhere in the downtown area with the new condo buildings making it a bit more challenging to find.

Condos, condos, condos. No matter which way you look, condos are all over the downtown.

Toronto is amongst the most expensive real estate in Canada and in the world for that matter. Depending on which source you might reference, Toronto usually falls within the top 25 most expensive cities in the world. Vancouver beats Toronto. Both cities have become unaffordable for most Canadians.

Tiny 600 square foot condos will sell for $1,000 – $1,500 a square foot in the downtown.

$700,000 or more for a little space in the sky. Before condo fees.

Weather was sunny and very warm in Toronto and this weather pattern followed us all the way to Norway. We did not need to pack any thermal clothing for our trip. But we did not know that.

After a wonderful dinner in Toronto, Lorraine and I settled in for the evening, excited to begin the travel to Norway.

The next morning, we made our way to catch the UP Express from downtown to the Airport. This is the entrance for the UP Express:

Next post will cover our journey to Hamburg.

Back From Norway

After several days of travel, we finally made it back home.

Norway was an incredible experience and we will have lots of stories and photos to share over the next few days. Every morning we had views like the one pictured above.

For today?

Two major tasks.

The first is to battle the jet lag — I was up at 3am this morning. It will take a few more days to shake off the 6-hour time zone change.

The second is to take our coach out of storage and to begin the process of getting it ready for our travels south.

We will pick up the coach at 11am this morning. We will give the coach a thorough clean of the interior and of the basement bays. An overnight stay tonight and then off to the dealer tomorrow.

The dealer will have the coach until we take it back on September 20th and then Lorraine and I will begin our extended travel in our coach.

We placed our order for the coach in October of 2015. And now, after almost three years of getting ourselves ready to go, we are quite excited to finally hit the road for some new adventures in our retirement.

A new beginning.

Happy Retirement

Lorraine and I have made our way from Kingston to Toronto. Our flight to Hamburg, Germany is tomorrow night.

We have so enjoyed staying at the Hotel Le Germain whenever we have come into Toronto and we decided to celebrate the start of our retirement cruise with them.

Someone obviously told them about our trip and they brought us a tasty treat to help us celebrate.

Lorraine has a special dinner planned for this evening. Tomorrow we will explore Toronto as tourists before heading up to the airport in the afternoon.

Time To Abandon Ship

Cleaned out the office.

Handed back my building pass.

Took one final look back at the corner office where I had spent most of the past ten years of my life.

My name was still there but it won’t be on Monday morning. I’ve abandoned ship.

I’ve certainly gone through a bit of a rollercoaster ride leading up to this moment.

Excitement.

Fear.

Excitement.

More fear.

A friend told me that in retirement every night is like Friday night and every day is like Saturday.

Last night was Friday night and today is Saturday. So far so good!

We had a family celebration last night. Here is one shot of me with Lorraine and our three children.

Made it to the retirement line, which is really a new starting line for whatever happens next. Lorraine and I have spent years getting ready for this time of life.

We’ll soon be heading out to Hamburg, Germany and then from there to Norway. Things will likely be a bit quiet around this website over the next few weeks as I expect access to the Internet will be limited while we are away.

When we get back from Europe, it will be time to get our coach ready for the journey south.