Highlights, Lowlights, and Inspiration: My Summer Vacation

Back when I was teaching English in secondary school, the first assignment of the year was always “How I Spent my Summer Vacation.” Back then, a time equivalent to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, students would grab their pens and/or pencils, and after a round of groans, moans, and ‘I didn’t do anything,” they would settle down to the task.

Surprisingly, most would end up with a tale or two about one incident or another that had happened over the course of the two month break from school. I used these quickly written paragraphs to give me insight into the students and their current ability levels.

Now that I’ve retired from teaching, I’m the one writing compositions on my summer vacation. What goes around, comes around. As you may recall, this was my first international vacation since COVID and my second overseas flight. How did it start? With the flight being cancelled after having spent ten hours at the airport. The Business Class lounge is nice but not that nice!

The airline did provide us with a hotel room and meals, but we lost a day of the time we expected to spend with family. Still, twenty-four hours later, we made it to Norway, so exhausted that I fell asleep at the table! All that aside, the first leg of our journey was underway. Below are images of the Telemark Canal Cruise and the Dalen Hotel.


Blue skies, mountains, and nature

It you’re ever in Norway and are close enough to indulge yourselves, I highly recommend this. The cruise was fantastic, the staff friendly and helpful, and the meal at the Dalen Hotel, an exquisite four course meal with a different wine for each course.

After the canal cruise, we spent time with family at their cottage on the fjord. While the weather might not have been the hot, sunny weather of summer we’d hoped for, it was still a fantastic time, the best part being all the time I had with my granddaughter. My husband went swimming but the water was too cold for me!

Here are a few pictures. We even had our own guest house.

When our time in Norway ended, we flew to Southampton to board our ship for the cruise around the UK. The flight was uneventful. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel where we spent the night, and then in the morning, we took another to the cruise ship terminal. This was our fourth cruise with NCL, and I would highly recommend them. I’m a fan of freestyle dining!

Cruising Around the British Isles

So much history!

For the next ten days, the cruise was our home base. We were treated like royalty with fantastic service, outstanding meals and entertainment.

But the best part of it all were the places we visited. Canada is a reasonable new country. There are few things that are more than 400 years old, like the buildings in Quebec City, but visiting places that are thousands of years old, well, that’s the real eye-opener. Below, you’ll find an image from each of the places we visited. As I write the novels they inspired, I’ll tell you more about each one. But, in order, here are the places we saw: Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains in England, Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland (didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone but blew it a kiss and had an Irish coffee instead), another castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland (although hearing the tour guide talk about “The Troubles” was what affected me most), Kennedy’s Pub in Dublin, Ireland, a pub both Oscar Wilde and James Joyce were said to have frequented (English teacher mode here), The Standing Stones of Calanais on the Isle of Lewis (more about them next month), Cawdor Castle in Inverness, best known as the home of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor, (what English teacher could resist a walk through there?) At that stop, we also saw Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, the former home of Robert the Bruce, first Scottish king, and finally the last of the castles in Newcastle, England.

Unfortunately since the ship used tenders to ferry us from the ship to the ports in Scotland, we were unable to get off in Edinburgh because of fog and rough seas, so I missed that excursion, but as you can see, I got to see lots of castles!

The cruise ended with a sea day as we crossed the North Sea and made our way to port in Copenhagen. Ater racing through the airport thanks to slow lines at passport control and security, we boarded our flight home–unfortunately, our luggage decided to stay an extra night in Amsterdam where our flights connected. Two days later, the bags made it home, and I engaged in that post holiday activity we all love–three weeks’ worth of laundry. And now it’s back to the computer for me. How was your summer vacation?

I’m already at work on the first novel set on the Isle of Lewis. Watch for Listen to the Stones later this fall..

Looking for something to read now? Irresistible Second Chances, only 99 cents US or free to read in KU, features my newest novel, It’s a Match.

See you next month!

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About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

One Reply to “Highlights, Lowlights, and Inspiration: My Summer Vacation”

  1. How exciting! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I’m cruising on NCL on the 17th, out of NYC to Maine, St John’s, and Nova Scotia. Maybe next year we’ll get to Europe, me and my family. Hugs!

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