Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

Hej hej! We took a week’s vacation in Scandinavia because we found some great last-minute flight prices. It started with a long flight to Reykjavik, Iceland for a layover before our final destination in Copenhagen, Denmark. We trained into the city center and walked around for a few hours while making our way to the harbor. On the way we saw Hans Christian Anderson’s famous mermaid statue. We caught an overnight ferry into Oslo, Norway. Once in Oslo the next morning we got bus tickets and made our way to the Viking Ship Museum. That was one of the best museums of our trip. There were four recovered ships on display with all kinds of artifacts, skeletons, and other remains that were in the ships. Then we walked down the street to the Folk Museum to see the Stave Church-a Medieval wooden church found almost exclusively in Norway or nearby to Norway (there is actually one more modern-built one near Rapid City, South Dakota).  Anyways, the museum had some neat things that really showed how their decorative/designs evolved over time. They remind me of U.S.’s 1970s-like designs. After that museum, we bussed/walked to the Vigeland Park to see the famous crying baby sculpture. It has been on our list of things to see since our first trip to Norway when we came across another crying baby sculpture/fountain in Bergen.

Once in Oslo the next morning we got bus tickets and made our way to the Viking Ship Museum. That was one of the best museums of our trip. There were four recovered ships on display with all kinds of artifacts, skeletons, and other remains that were in the ships. Then we walked down the street to the Folk Museum to see the Stave Church-a Medieval wooden church found almost exclusively in Norway or nearby to Norway (there is actually one more modern-built one near Rapid City, South Dakota).  Anyways, the museum had some neat things that really showed how their decorative/designs evolved over time. They remind me of U.S.’s 1970s-like designs. After that museum, we bussed/walked to the Vigeland Park to see the famous crying baby sculpture and all the others in the park. It has been on our list of things to see since our first trip to Norway when we came across another crying baby sculpture/fountain in Bergen-by artist Gustav Vigeland. Then we bussed/walked to our hotel downtown and wandered downtown into the evening.

The next day we wandered downtown again, through the Akershus Fortress, along the port, by the Nobel Peace Center, etc. and eventually reached the ferry again for our return trip to Copenhagen. The ferry runs between these two cities nightly, a retired cruise ship basically, and the best way to easily get from city to city, in my opinion. 

Back in Copenhagen we walked to our hotel which we were staying in for the duration of our trip and got assigned one of the penthouse suites (even though I booked a “standard double or twin” room). We tried to tell the front desk to ensure we were not charged more and they said it was fine. We had two large (one private) balconies and nearly a 360° view over Copenhagen, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom. It was great, obviously. We then went to Central Station and took a trip to Roskilde, about 20 minutes from the city. We saw the Roskilde Cathedral, which houses the most royal graves in one place of any place in the world. It also boasts a “ghost horse” grave in the cathedral. Then we walked to yet another Viking Ship Museum, which houses five recovered ships. They were in far worse shape than the museum in Oslo, with pretty much no other artifacts. They score points on having a wood workshop where they constantly make ships in the original Viking tradition. So that demo and their history of how they recovered and conserved the ship pieces was neat.  Then we wandered through the town and eventually made our way back to Copenhagen where we wandered.

Our next day was Copenhagen completely. We walked all around the city, took a canal boat tour from the famous Nyhavn canal area, walked through the palace area, and to the National Museum of Denmark. This museum was great-we focused on the Viking, Bronze/Stone ages, and Medieval areas which are our fortes. It was a very confusing layout and took a while to get through, but the artifacts were neat. These included runes, a bog woman, various skeletons, various artifacts, weapons, artwork, etc. Later in the evening, we walked around more of downtown, which was surprisingly and pleasantly open and lively for a Sunday night.

The following day we took a day trip into Malmö, Sweden. It was a 30-minute train ride. We walked for around their downtown, large park area, saw the oldest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia and had the best danishes in a café called Katarina (Konditori). So the best danishes come from Sweden, not Denmark. Then we headed back into Copenhagen, more strolling downtown into the evening. The next day we headed to the airport and made our way back to Baltimore.

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Overall, we didn’t have much local type fare; nothing was advertised as a traditional meal or food type, so we mostly at cafes or went to a grocer for sandwiches, danishes, coffee, beer, etc. The weather was phenomenal-hovered around the 50°s F mostly-day and night. The trains in Denmark took some getting used to-it is not set up to travel on a train via destination or end of route destination, but by zones-you buy so many zones to get to your destination. It was very difficult to figure out which platform your train is as you need to figure out which zone it is going to and if your stop falls along that path. I discovered that I prefer older cities/towns; Copenhagen. Oslo, Malmö were mostly built in or after the late 1700s and they have lots of modern art and architecture. My preference is Medieval/early Renaissance type things or natural views/spots. We got to see everything we set out to in these areas, so it was a successful trip. Justin was constantly mistaken for a native by natives and tourists alike-tall, blond, blue eyes, etc. I often get mistaken for a German when we travel and it is now clear he gets mistaken for a Dane or Scandinavian. I guess that is about it! It was a nice trip and a great way to hail the beginning of the end of our time in Maryland!

 

 

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Niagara Falls

Justin, Heidi, and I took a weekend away, road trip to Niagara Falls from Maryland. After the first few hours, Heidi got used to being in a car. Our return drive was easy breezy; she knew how to get comfortable, sleep, wander, etc. The drive was around 8.5 hours with a couple of small stops here and there and one tank of $40 gas (one way). We drove straight into the Canadian side where we stayed at a pet-friendly hotel; no issues crossing the border. We wandered through the town that evening. The Canadian side was kinda cheesy touristy/theme park attraction-y. Luckily it is not quite tourist season yet, even though it’s May, so it was not packed and some stuff was not open. Plus it was raining almost the entire weekend and in the 40s-50s. The hour here and there where there was no rain we were getting misted by the falls….so it was quite the wet weekend and my wellies got thoroughly used.

Please enjoy our complimentary photos, with more text and a video below!

Day two in Canada we visited the falls (very awesome), went behind the falls (very loud), and ate at Tim Hortons (very delicious). Then we made our way back into America. We were thoroughly questioned by the patrol guys on our way in since we had Heidi, and they checked her papers (rabies, shots, etc.) and gave her some loving attention, and we were on our way! We took a long stroll in the Falls’ park and enjoyed the views from the other side. Heidi was particularly popular with the Chinese and Russians and will likely be popping up in various social media posts worldwide, as she was photographed a dozen times. People fawning over Heidi is not too unusual, I mean, look at that cute face…and butt. Anyways, we did not spend much time in town on the American side, but it was certainly not as theme-y as the Canadian side. Therefore, I’d recommend the American side more, if one must choose.  Then we drove back to Maryland. Fin.

 

 

Happy New Years, Puerto Rico and Caribbean Cruise

Happy 2017 New Years Everyone!

Justin and I went on a family vacation with the Johnsons to Puerto Rico for the new year’s and a Caribbean cruise the following week that visited St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados. While in Puerto Rico we swam in the salty ocean, hiked in the rainforest, and swam under a waterfall. The waterfall was a top spot, for the nice 55-degree (perfect for swimming) water temperature and the fact that it was fresh water. We viewed the new year from our hotel balcony, which provided excellent views of many fireworks.

PR reminded us of Naples a lot, the colors and materials of buildings, many similar words, the downtown San Juan buildings were built similar to 1700’s Spain style, which is similar to Naples, only newer. Naples wins on attractions and food hands down, though. I personally was not a fan of the fried and plantain-rich food. PR is much nicer, no trash everywhere, cleaner air and water, even passengers clapped when the plane landed safely. I thought that was a Naples only thing.

While cruising, we learned pretty quickly that the islands themselves do not have much going for them past a couple viewpoints here and there. The main attraction is the beach and other water-related activities. In St. Kitts and St. Lucia we took island tours, which progressed from shanty-town-like residences and got a little nicer by each island. Each port has nearly identical shops, centered around duty and tax-free jewelry and flowy beach wear. In Barbados, we took an excursion to a submarine voyage. We went 148 feet down at the deepest and saw millions of various fish, a couple turtles, a stingray, and plenty of coral. There was also a sunken ship we subbed around…quite interesting.

The beachy hot weather is not Justin and I’s preference and with a lack of historical sites, we can easily say we have no interest in returning to the Caribbean. The vacation was more so about spending time with Justin’s family, so in that regards, it was a success. Please enjoy the photos. You can click on them to enlarge or save. There may be more to come if other family members send us their shots.

Mom visits, Dec 2016

Mom visited for a few days. The first day we went to NYC-for the Radio City Xmas Spectacular Show w/the Rockettes, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, walked past Trump Tower, 30 Rock (went to the top for city views), walked through Central Park to the Met Museum, and visited an antique book/print shop.

The second day we went to the Cryptologic Museum, lunch, and Baltimore-walked along the Inner Harbor, went up Federal Hill for city views, dinner at Pub Dog in Fed Hill, and back to the German Christmas Market that unfortunately closed shortly after we arrived, but not before we got delicious strudels.

The third day began with a leisurely morning followed by Greek/Afghani food lunch and Annapolis toward the afternoon/evening-went to the Annapolis Naval Academy and walked around, John Paul Jones Crypt, Museum, and then wandered around the Annapolis streets and finally took in a quick Christmas Boat Parade viewing until the cold encouraged us to go home.

Sunday was a lazy day, to include getting decadent donuts and wandering the mall and looking at laptops for mom. We got fresh seafood for dinner at a local shack nearby as well.

 

 

Baltimore Aquarium and Xmas Village

It was $1 day at the Baltimore Aquarium (versus a normal $40 per person). We waited in the line, which wrapped around the entire large building and snaked here and there, for over an hour and got our tickets for a little later in the afternoon. We walked along the harbor towards the German Christmas Village. We did the traditional browsing, mulled wine drinking, and brat and strudel eating. Delicious and delightful. Then we went to the aquarium. Parts of it were really neat, certainly not worth $40. The main first exhibit is the entire floor is the fish tank swimming with tons of fish, sharks, turtles, stingrays, etc. Another neat exhibit was the jellyfish, which I created a video of. Enjoy!

Meet our latest addition to the family!

Heidi Ho Johnson has been with us since February of 2015, although she was born on November 13, 2014. We got her from a Mennonite near Lancaster, PA. At the time of posting this, she has recently turned 1. She is a tri-colored Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Heidi is a nice little lady who loves to play with balls, sticks, cardboard boxes, and rope toys. When she is really playful she will do this specific weird growl, it’s pretty cute…can sometimes a little loud and silly. If she wants something she will do these quiet little “moof” sounding noises (it’s her barking when she’s too lazy to open her mouth). It also signals she is too lazy to get a toy that she wants, generally when it’s less than a foot away from her.  She has lots of friends, dogs and humans alike. Her best friend, and possibly boyfriend from down the street, is a fluffy small mix of things named Hobbs. They visit each other almost daily.

In other Heidi skills, she is a talented cricket and bug catcher. She likes to play with them but always ends up killing them…good for bedroom bugs, though. Sometimes she goes straight for the kill and eats them. She once caught a bird who was trapped in our Odenton apartment’s stairwell…I made her let go of it, though. She enjoys going on walks and sniffing poop. She is not a great swimmer yet, but we’re working on it. Currently, she knows fetch, catches balls, shakes your hand (though you have to get really low to the ground for her to reach), stay, come, drops and leaves “it” (moderately successful depending on what she finds), sit, show me your belly, roll over, lie down. I think that’s all. She is a great addition to the family and is very sweet. She is long, soft, super fluffy around the collar, and very short. She also does a fine job of hogging the bed at night. Here is her first year of life with us.