Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solo trip to London

***NB: It seems this one was also ready for posting (the last week of August)...but I never scheduled it!!

How can you pass up cheap airfare on Ryanair? Well, I can't.

Chuck is quite busy at work and I know he has some long days ahead of him, so in order to ease his guilt and my crabbiness, I booked a solo-midweek trip to London. How's that for logic? In all seriousness, he works a lot; not as much as in the states, but plenty of hours by Danish standards. I sense there are going to be some late nights on the horizon, so rather than have me talk about the equity and fairness issue, I am heading to London and he can have 4 evenings filled will all the work he can possibly handle.

What exactly can a girl do all by herself in London? Lots, lots, lots. And, because Chuck doesn't fancy shopping, I threw in a few stops at some little stores. Maybe you know them...Harrods, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason?

I strolled through Green Park, over to Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and then over to Westminster Abbey. I waited in line for about 15 minutes until they opened and then stepped in and took in all it had to offer. I walked around the Parliament building and Big Ben, then a quick subway ride over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I was there in March, but Chuck wanted me to (sneak) some pictures of the phrase at the back of the cathedral. I shopped, went through Chinatown early in the morning as they were getting deliveries...did you know that they don't make anything from scratch...all the sauces come in boxes!!! I spent the afternoon in Nottinghill and had lunch at this great little shop near the subway station, but of course, can't recall the name!!

The highlight of the trip was my organized tour to the Cotswolds. I took the train to Oxford, then met up with Martin from Absolute Tours. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even if it was overcast and then rainy. With a group of just 5 of us in a minivan, it is so convenient to quickly stop, take pictures and get personalized treatment. The large bus tours are so impersonal and really limited to their stops. There were several 'cottages' for sale in the Cotswolds. I wonder if I can get Chuck to agree on a second home for us?!?!?

Here's a link to the slideshow.

Having a Becks in Bremen, Germany

**NB: It seems this has been ready for publishing since late August. Oops.

For Chuck's birthday, we spent the weekend in Bremen, Germany. In December last year, our friend Nils insisted that we go to Dresden, Germany for a weekend. We loved Dresden, so when he recommended Bremen, we had to go. Needless to say, we loved Bremen.

Each time we go to a German city, it seems that there is some sort of festival or party. In Bremen, it was the start of the Music festival, so Saturday night was filled with music, wine, and a laser show complete with the ringing of the church bells.

Becks brewery is located in Bremen, so a tour of the facility and a tasting was on the list of things to do. We even had some Haacke Becks, which you can only buy in Bremen. Check out the slideshow for a glimpse at the World's Largest Tap (well, as according to Chuck!)

We didn't do a lot of touristy type things aside from walking around and enjoying another fine German city. There is a great promenade along the river and on the weekends a sort of flea market is set up. Most folks set out sheets or blankets and laid their wares on the ground...kind of rummage-sale style. Other folks looked like they could pack up their 'hot' items and run. One 'booth' had about 10 bicycle seats and another had 8 receivers/tuners for a stereo set....Can we say....liberated from their rightful owners???

We also walked around the Schnoor district, which is the oldest district in Bremen. The streets are lined with colorful homes from the 15th and 16th centuries.

The most interesting event of the trip was a visit to the planetarium, something Chuck wanted to do for his birthday. No problem. Maybe it was going to be like the planetarium in St. Louis, which btw is fabulous. Uh, nope, not like St. Louis. All 16 of us pile into this tiny round room with two German guys, which I think were PhD students. The whole 1 hour experience was completely in German, which we only know please, thank you, you're welcome, and the number one. As I sat there, I kept thinking about the Muppets where the two old dudes are sitting up in the balcony telling jokes. Yeah, it was something like that. What a memory!

Here's a link to the slideshow.

Spain, glorious Spain

Chuck had a conference in Barcelona, so I tagged along and did some sightseeing while he spent his days locked up in a building. I remember when the roles were reversed and he was able to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Diego, San Antonio, Minneapolis, and Charlottesburg, while I was cooped up in a conference center.

I must admit, over the years, his conference (and work) locations far outshine anything selected for a local government, no extravagance in the public sector!

We spent 6 days in Barcelona and then I flew over to Madrid for 4 days and Chuck returned to Denmark.

Barcelona was quite the city! I'm sure the Summer Olympics in 1992 helped revitalize the city and improve the infrastructure. The subway system was great and easy to use (probably the best I've even been on in Europe). The boardwalk area along the Mediterranean was amazing. And, the sites were pretty impressive.

What did we do...
...aside from our brush with the local law enforcement and a pickpocketer
  • Sagrada Familia - not sure when this structure will EVER be finished. I can see why it's been a 'work in progress' for the last 127 one seems to be working there!

  • Palace of Catalan Music - stunning. I wish we would have planned ahead and got tickets to see / listen to a performance. No pictures as cameras weren't allowed, but it is an absolute work of art. Just stunning.

  • Mercat de San Josep de la Boqueria (Fresh market) - if you've seen one open market, you've seen (and smelled) them all.

  • Picasso Museum (and sighting of the naked 60 year old man on a bicycle)

  • Catalunya Square

  • Port Vell - the sight of our encounter with the pickpocketer. Nice place to get a beer, walk, and watch the boats and people around you.

  • Olympic Village

  • Day trip to Montserrat and a Cava producer - more on this under a separate post.

  • Las Ramblas street (complete with tons of vendors selling birds) - the street is boulevarded with the center strip lined with vendors selling everything from touristy key chains and other crap to live birds. I wonder how a tourist from the USA get a little birdie on the airplane???

  • Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) - we took the aerial gondola up to the castle on the top. It was interesting, but there wasn't much to do.

  • Museum of Contemporary Art - great art work, but not a lot of it. I'm not sure if they were between collections or if this was their normal exhibits. Good, but limited.

Stay tuned for the slideshow. In the meantime, here are a few pictures.

Ahhh, the beach!

Fresh fruit stand at the Market

Sagrada Familia - the cathedral that was started 127 years ago and isn't slated to be finished until 2020!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Soon, I promise

The downfall of taking so many pictures on our trips is that once I upload them, I have to spend hours and hours of finding the best 20-30, label them, post them, slideshow them, link them....

So, yes, I am behind...just a bit.

Soon, I promise...there will be posts on Barcelona, Montserrat, Madrid and Budapest. Oh, and my mom was kind enough to remind me that I never posted pictures from our trip to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands (Wisconsin) in June. Tsk, tsk.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On the road again.

And we're off again....

  • Barcelona, Spain

  • Madrid, Spain

  • USA

  • Budapest, Hungary

  • Hamburg, Germany

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend with friends in Kiel, Germany

Our friends, Nils and Ina live in Kiel, Germany and Chuck has been there several times, but I've been in the US during his visits. So, it was time for me to join him for a weekend in Kiel.

Another great German city! There's a nice large mall in the city center and a pedestrian street lined with shops and beer gardens. It is quite convenient because as Ina and I shopped, the boys would stop and have a beer....the best of both worlds!

Kiel is a port city on the Baltic Sea that has large passenger ferries coming in, dropping off passengers (from Norway/Sweden/Russia) for a little fun at the casinos and, um, shall we say, 'extracurricular activities'. Kiel is also known for Kiel Week (Kieler Wochen) in June each year, where it hosts the largest sailing event in the world!

The sights:

  • St. Nicholas's Church
  • Kiel Fjord
  • Holsten Street - shopping street
  • Kiel brewery
  • Rathaus - city hall
  • Drinks by the fjord

And, of course, there is always an opportunity for shopping. I've been debating about what I wanted to bring back to the US from our European travels....a rug, pottery, porcelain, dishes, cutlery, etc.

So, what did we (I) buy....

WMF cutlery, Denver style.

A few pictures. Here's a link to the slideshow.

There's something about Fish in Kiel's history, thus the fish tiles in the walking street. But, I have no idea what the story is, so I'll have to wait for Nils to fill me in.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Getting your pocket picked

I think just about everyone I know warned me about pickpockets in (insert city here) in Europe. From Barcelona to Prague, it seems that most people know of someone that was a victim in some European city.

After 20 months in Europe, 14 countries and many, many, many finally happened to us.

We were sitting at a cluster of tables at Port Vell in Barcelona having a few glasses of beer. I had my purse on my lap and Chuck put his backpack on his chair (which was located in the dead center of the group). Of the 6 tables, all were filled with English-speaking folks and there were probably about 30 people sitting there.

Enter, the Barcelona police. Three cops on motocycles/mopeds ride up and say in Spanish, "Did anyone lose a backpack?" Hmmm, huh? What? I translate to Chuck, "They want to know if anyone lost a backpack." He turns around and his backpack is gone.

Chuck: "Uh, yeah, hey that's my backpack"

Cop 1: "Do you have a passport"

Chuck: "Yes, it's in my pocket. Here you go."

Neighboring tables: "We didn't see anything, what happened"

Cop 1: "Do you want to press charges and fill out a police report"

Chuck: "No, that's ok."

Cop 1: (reaching into backpack, looking at contents, and pulls out a book...says to Cop 2 in Spanish) "Hey, listen to this....Harmonic...blah, blah, blah"

Cop 2: Laughs and laughs some more

Little did the would-be thief know that Chuck's backpack would contain conference papers for the EPE (engineering) conference, a pad of paper, pencil...and his boss's PhD thesis...which is what Cop 1 pulled out of the backpack. Oh, I forgot to add that Cop 1 said the equivalent of 'nerd' in Spanish to Cop 2. Editorial, my husband is not a nerd; just a very intelligent engineer. Yes, I know...that equals nerd.

So, yes, Chuck was the victim of a pickpocket. But, we were quite thrilled with how the Barcelona police officers were quick to return the backpack.

I'm sure the little thief was faced with 'some serious hurt' or tell the cops where to return the backpack.