Archive for Trip to Sweden 2008

Stavanger, Norway

// June 13th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda: Well, for our last weekend in Europe, we decided to visit Stavanger, Norway which is located in the southwest part of the country. We have heard how beautiful the fjords are in Norway, so this is what we wanted to see. This was a definitely a different type of trip from our previous trips because we wanted to view the country side instead of touring the city.

We left Gothenburg at 2:30PM Thursday afternoon and drove to Oslo for our flight to Stavanger. The drive was not easy because there was construction for more than half way. It was a 3 ½ hour drive and for a good 2 hours, we had to go through construction. When we arrived in Norway, customs stopped us and pulled us aside…I think only because we spoke English, since they didn’t stop the cars in front of us. Oh well, no problem. We just had to answer several questions and then we were back on the road.

The airport in Oslo, I think, is the most efficient airport in the world. We checked in, went through security, all within about 5 minutes! There were no lines. One thing to mention though is their medal detector is very sensitive. Chad’s billfold set it off with only credit cards in it. (Chad: I love the Oslo airport. The airport makes it worth traveling on a airplane.)

Rhonda: After arriving in Stavanger at 9:15 PM, we took a bus to our hotel. I think I will mention now, our hotel (Rica Forum) was the worst hotel that we have stayed in during the last 3 months. It’s unfortunate because I had hoped it would be a good one with the only down side being it was outside the city center. When I booked our hotel, my selection was limited because everything was totally booked! Very few hotels had rooms available. So with that mentioned, when we checked into our hotel, the first incident (out of 4) that happened was that they had us down for a single room which was not what I had booked. For us to have a double room, we would have to take a smoking room. “Ok”, I said, since there was nothing else available.

Friday morning after breakfast, we took a bus to the city center. We had scheduled a boat ride at 10 AM down one of the fjords! Since we had some extra time before our tour, we found a 7-Eleven shop to buy some sandwiches and stuff for our trip. We then found the old Stavanger Cathedral. It was a beautiful old church. We walked all the way around it because I wanted to find an open door to see inside! We never found one though.

Our ferry was called “Strand” and it would take us down the entire Lysefjorden! Both Chad and I could not wait to see it. Our ferry also was a tourist ferry and had audio to describe the different sites along the way. It would take approximately 3 ½ hours one way down to the end of the fjord.

We had heard that the fjords in Norway were beautiful, but I didn’t know how beautiful until I saw one of them in person. I could not believe my eyes. It was truly amazing! The water level was as deep as 1400 feet in some areas and the mountains were as high as 3000 feet. Chad and I grabbed a seat at the front of boat so that we would have a good view. Our ferry went very slow down the fjord, which was good because it gave us a chance to see everything.

The first main site was the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). This rock is a huge rectangular shaped rock at the top of the mountain over looking the water. The Pulpit Rock is a popular tourist attraction for hikers. We actually hiked up to the top of the Pulpit Rock the following day which I will describe later.

Next, about half way down, our ferry made a stop in a very small area between the mountains. Our captain was definitely good at maneuvering the huge boat in tiny areas, but I guess he gets practice every day!

At the end of the fjord is a town called Lyse. It is also the location for the famous destination Kjerag. Kjerag is where there is a rock that has fallen and is wedged between two cliffs. We have seen pictures of people online standing on this rock and we heard that you have to jump onto it from the edge of the cliff. I assume it’s not a big jump because so many people have had their picture taken there, but who knows! Also, Kjerag is the perfect spot for base jumpers! Base jumpers from all over the world travel to there to jump off of the cliff. I definitely don’t blame them because this has got to be the most beautiful spot to base jump. It is 3000 feet high and there is a landing area just beside the water. The small landing area is not pleasant though due to the rocks everywhere, but if you have good accuracy skills, then you will probably do ok.

Our ferry then reached our destination of Lyse. It is the base camp for the jumpers. We had one hour to look around before we made our return trip to Stavanger. We decided to visit the base camp and have a drink. We met the owners of the bar/pub and they gave us the discounted jumper rate. It was still expensive, but we were very grateful. After hanging out there for a while, Chad and I thought we might have to make another visit to this location in the future!

We then made an uneventful trip back on the ferry to Stavanger. For dinner, we found a nice restaurant right on the water. One thing I will now mention is that Norway is THE most expensive place to live. Everything is outrageous. One beer costs about 12 dollars compared to our 3-4 dollar beers back home. And that is just one example! Basically everything is about 3-4 times the cost that it is back in the US. (Chad: Yes, Norway is the most expensive. Bring a dump truck full of money.)

Rhonda: After dinner, we took a bus back to the hotel. At this time, I can mention the second incident that occurred at our hotel. Somewhere outside of our room, there was a party going on with some very loud music. We thought it was coming from the 21st floor in the bar since we were located on the 19th floor. But when I called down to the front desk which was around 11 PM, to ask when the music would end, they told me that they thought the music was coming from a car on a street near by. Very unlikely, I thought, but oh well, I didn’t complain anymore. I finally fell asleep around 1 AM.

Ok, now for the 3rd incident at the hotel. Since we were leaving early on Saturday morning at 7 AM and would miss breakfast, we had scheduled a take-away breakfast. The front desk had taken down all the details. When we stopped by the front desk to pick up our breakfast, there was none to be found. They had forgotten about it! So, thank goodness, we had made some extra sandwiches and were able to have them for breakfast.

For Saturday, we had scheduled a hiking trip up to the top of Pulpit Rock. Chad and I were very much looking forward to it. We had to take a ferry then a bus ride to the base of where the hike began.

One of my co-workers told me that the hike was easy. She said that her 80 year old grandmother made the hike with no problems and that it would take about 1 ½ hours to complete! We could not believe it. I think it was the most difficult hike we have ever been on. Unlike the hikes in NC, there was no real path. There were only boulders to walk on and the hike was uphill all the way. It was approximately 3 ½ miles one way. Older senior people were passing us like it was nothing and parents carrying small children on their back also were passing us. I could not believe it. I had thought Chad and I were in shape, but we definitely were not compared to the Norwegians. It took us 2 hours to get to the top!  But what an amazing view when we got there! We could see the entire fjord. Everyone was sitting near the edge of the rock and I even laid down in order to take a peek over the edge! We spent about an hour on the rock taking pictures and had a picnic lunch.

Chad told me later after we had finished the hike that he wasn’t sure if he could make it and was thinking about turning back just after the first fourth of a mile. I was concerned too! The hike was very steep with a rocky path.

We were so tired after the hike that we went straight back to the hotel for dinner and to turn in for the evening. We ended up going to sleep at 8:30 PM!

Chad: We were very tired after the hike and I made a decision we would shower up and eat at the hotel. After cleaning up we went to the 21st floor for dinner. We were immediately seated. After a big hike, I was hungry for a hamburger. In fact I was going to get it with cheese and bacon. I couldn’t believe they would serve such a thing at this nice restaurant. Then Rhonda warned me not to get the dressing on it and said it would not be like a hamburger from the States. Well, it’s gotta be close. What can they do different? This was a learning experience for me. I ordered it without dressing and unfortunately it came with dressing. So I just scraped it off and proceeded to eat it. The first bite was unlike any hamburger I’ve had. It was more like a burger that has been cooking on the fryer for hours and then warmed up. This was not good. However, I guess it is a standard for Europe. The lesson I learned is never order a hamburger in Europe. The meat is not good and it is not cooked like I’m used to. Plus it has every sauce on it in the book to cover up the taste. Plus when you byte it, it is difficult to tear from the main burger. Anyways, if you order a burger in Europe, just realize it is not an American style burger. It is European style and that’s the way it is. I didn’t like it, but ate as much of it as possible.

Rhonda: Ok, now for the last and most upsetting incident at the hotel. Upon checkout Sunday morning, we had an unusual conversation with the front desk clerk. He started to finalize our bill and asked us where we were from. We told him that we were from the US. He immediately mentioned that he was from Brazil and that he was a diplomat and knew many languages. Chad then asked “How did you end up in Norway”? (Chad’s intention was to find out how he ended up in such a great place.) Then I think that was all it took for this guy to go off on us. He had found out that we were from the States and now we were asking how he got there. He was all of a sudden very angry and took it out on us. He said “Well, how did you end up here”? Not meaning us specifically, but people from the US. He said “Are you here to help people? Are you here to solve our problems?” I think he was trying to tell us his opinion that the US always gets involved with other countries when they shouldn’t. I finally spoke up and said, “Excuse me, Listen, Can we just check out”? Chad and I were so upset after this had happened. If this guy was really a diplomat from Brazil, how did he end up working as a front desk clerk in this hotel?

We ended up missing our bus to the airport because we went to the wrong bus stop and had to pay $60 for a taxi which would have been a $15 bus ride.

In summary, Stavanger and the view of the fjord was one of our best trips in Europe. It ranks very high along side with our trip to Rome and Kiruna! We highly recommend this unique and beautiful place to visit and Chad and I will hopefully be able to see it again sometime.

Check out some of our great pictures in the gallery below! On a side note, our pictures don’t do the place justice. It just gives us a little reminder of what our trip to Norway was like. We took about a 1000 pictures and we have posted 89 of those we really like.

Norway Update

// June 8th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

We finished our trip to Stavanger Norway this weekend and it is going to take us until around Thursday to get the final article completed. We have the bulk of the write-up done, but we took way to many pictures and we are having difficulty picking which ones to post. I ended up taking about 650 photos and Rhonda took about 250 photos. Now we have to whittle them down to about 50 to process and use.

Also, we are traveling back home this week and that will take up a lot of our time.

We hope to have everything complete by the end of the week.

Thanks,

Chad & Rhonda

Our Weekend in Stockholm

// June 3rd, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Chad: We took a trip to Stockholm for our 2nd to last weekend here in Sweden. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Gothenburg on mostly very good roads. We left on Friday afternoon around 5 pm. Rhonda drove the whole way and I was very thankful. I don’t like to drive here at all.

Rhonda: Chad has not driven at all since we arrived on March 10th! Oh well, I don’t mind. Chad: Yeah, right!

Chad: Rhonda’s co-worker, Freppe, loaned us a GPS. It has been a lifesaver. Without it, traveling would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. I think driving through the downtown streets of Stockholm is challenging for even the local drivers.

This weekend turned out to be a busy one for the city. A large number of international dignitaries were leaving Stockholm on Friday from the Iraq conference which messed up traffic a bit. Along with that, it was graduation evening for over 20 high schools. Lots of teenagers out driving around. Finally, they were getting ready for the Stockholm marathon on Saturday. We were told about 18000 people were entering it. So navigating Stockholm at about 10 pm at night still proved to be challenging and, like I said, the GPS saved us more than once.

We scouted for a parking lot before leaving Gothenburg and saved several possible locations since downtown was full and every hotel was booked. Our hotel said they could park our car for about $75 per day, so upon arrival we went to the first parking garage instead of using the hotel parking. Rhonda’s eagle eyes found it buried in the side of a building going underground. We almost missed it. Only about $55 per day to park. What a great deal!

We stayed at the Radison SAS Strand Hotel. No, it wasn’t the “Grand Hotel” where the Nobel laureates stay, but it was almost right behind it. While we were checking in, they were turning people away since every room in the downtown Stockholm area was booked for the marathon and graduation. We were very lucky we were able to stay at such a central location.

After we checked in, we made our way around Gamla Stan, “Old Town”, to take photos. The sun was finally going down about 11 pm so we could finally see buildings light up for the evening. We took some photos of Old Town, the Grand Hotel, and finally went to an outdoor bar where we had a glass of wine. By the time we made it back to the room, it was 1 am and time to get some fast sleep.

The next morning we had our $25 dollar breakfast downstairs. European style with a few things that looked like scrambled eggs. If you are in Europe, in most hotels it is better to eat the European style breakfast and skip anything that is “American” like. (Eggs, bacon, sausages, etc.) It just is not right. However, eating the cereal, fruit, yogurt, and their excellent coffee is perfect.

This morning we took the Grand Tour. It was a 1.5 hour bus ride around the city with a 2 hour boat ride around the islands.

We saw the following areas: Nybrokajen, Stromkajen, The Royal Palace, Stadshusbron, Gustav Adolfs Square, Kulturhuset, and Mynttorget.

Rhonda: One of the highlights on the bus tour was that we got to see the Swedish Guards riding the Royal horses through the streets of Stockholm. They were heading to the Palace where the changing of the guards ceremony was going to be held.

On the boat tour, the best part was going through 2 of the many lock gates. Stockholm is situated between the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren and is made up of 14 islands.

Lake Mälaren is actually 3 meters above the Baltic Sea, so water lock gates are located between the sea and the lake due to the water turbulence. In the locks, the water is raised or lowered depending on which direction you are going in the boat. During the short time in the locks, the water level is adjusted and boats are anchored to the sides. It was a neat experience.

Chad: After the tour we took a short break at the room before going out again to the Old Town to do a little shopping. After shopping we found a café to sit at for an afternoon break. While walking the old town, we found an old sign shop were we purchased a little sign that was labeled “kitchen” in Swedish for way to much money. It was a interesting store and we talked with the keeper for about 20 minutes before we were hooked.

Rhonda: Before our shopping experience in the Old Town and our mid afternoon snack, we were able to watch the marathon for a short time. I couldn’t believe how many people were in the race. I think this was the first time for both of us to see a marathon.

Chad: Once the afternoon was done we made our way back to the hotel again and found a great place for dinner. We went to Restaurant Milano. Rhonda had spaghetti with scampi and that was definitely the best. If you are ever in Stockholm, you should give that a try.

We ate too much that evening, so we decided to walk to the far side of the harbor and try to take some sun set photographs. Our first stop we found 8 air balloons going over the city and took a few pictures of them. Once I got my stuff set up, a bunch of other tourists joined me in trying to take their photos.

We then walked to the other side of the Old Town and ended up walking up a huge flight of stairs to an area with a great view of the city. It ended up being a lot more interesting than taking the road that everyone else used.

After that we again walked along the edge of the old town again and turned in for the night.

Sunday was our last day and we decided to go to the House of Photography Museum and the Royal Stables. The museum was in a temporary style and extremely small. We were given a short video and ended up looking at about 15 large photos. We also found extra photos for sale starting at about $1300 dollars each. Way to expensive for us, but some of them were very good.

After that, we waited for about 90 minutes until the stables opened up. They only accept the first 30 people in line each day for a single tour. We were lucky and only about 10 people were in line. We were shown all the Kings horses. The King owns 14 of them and the rest of the staff owns the other 16 horses. The staff takes care and trains all the horses. We got to meet a few of them and were shown their stables.  After that, we saw all of the different carriages. They are made of gold and silver and some are very old. It’s amazing. Some of the carriages are over 100 years old and still in use today. Everything is taken care of extremely well.

Rhonda: The Royal Stables was a great place to visit. I truly enjoyed it. We got to see the gold and silver harnesses that the horses wear and the old carriages! We also got to meet a couple of the horses. We learned that all of the horses are Bay horses with the exception of one and they all are 100% Swedish blood. Each of them are giving a new appropriate name when they are brought to the Royal Stables. The horse we met was “Balder”! He really liked his neck scratched.

We had a great time in Stockholm! Check out all of Chad’s photos below!

A Little bit of Bowling on Tuesday

// May 28th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda and I have been married 3 years now and we went out to bowl a bit for our anniversary on Tuesday. (I know your thinking that’s really romantic. ) Anyways, we had a bit of dinner at the LaVacca restaurant downstairs and made our way to the bowling alley just a few blocks away.

It’s a bit different than the states. You have to reserve your alley ahead of time which I did earlier that day. Plus, you rent it by the hour. For the 2 of us with rental shoes it cost $57.00 for 1 hour. Hmmm. That’s a bit different than when my Grandmother first took me bowling and it cost a $1.40 per game. Also, the dance music was cranked up, the lights were dimmed, and image lights were spinning around on the lanes. The place was full and everybody was enjoying it.

Anyways, we were able to play 3 games. Rhonda did very well right away. She had 129, 168 and 129. She had been here earlier in the month with her co-workers and so she had some practice. I steadily improved with a 130, 155, and 192.

Chad

Skydive Vårgårda

// May 26th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

This weekend we decided to take a day and go jumping. The dropzone we found was called Hoppafallskarm. The translation is something like “jump parachute”. Someone correct me if you know the proper translation. For now, we’ll call it Skydive Vårgårda. (What you could think of here is the English word “afford”. The ‘o’-sound is very close to what ‘å’ sounds like.)

The trip was only an hour away from Göteborg, so it was a very fast trip to the DZ. Upon arrival we were greeted at manifest by Mia, who helped us get everything
going.

The hangar was full with a brand new PAC 750. It just flew in the night before and had a manufactured date of MAY 2008 on the ID tag. It even smelled new with a touch of jet fuel in the air. Maybe we would get to jump out of this one?? Unfortunately, we arrived on a weekend reserved for tandem jumping. The new PAC was not yet ready for jumpers and their 2nd PAC was in Stockholm for the weekend. So, we worked in a few solo jumps into the busy tandem schedule on their Cessna 182.

We each made a single jump and had a great time. Everyone at the DZ was great and very inviting. We learned where the PAC was going to be next weekend and also where we should travel in Norway to watch base jumping should we happen to get there.

We found out the DZ was limited to 10 loads per day from 10 am until 5 pm. Outside of that, they can not jump at all. They worked out a new deal when they purchased their 2nd PAC and now they can do up to 18 loads a day from 10 am until 6 pm. This is extremely restrictive compared to the States, but I guess this is the law. I could feel they probably wanted more time to jump (i.e. past 6 pm), but for now they at least get more loads in the limited amount of time.

We also found out the DZ is ran as a non profit corporation. In fact all DZs are this way in Sweden. Each DZ is a club and members pay a fee each year and are then responsible for the upkeep of the DZ.

We walked to the far end of the DZ and found a bunk house with a big screen projection system, about 10 bunks, a bar, and several TV screens, plus they had a huge deck outside. There were a few trailers parked out front. The placed looked very comfortable for a dropzone.

After each making a jump, we decided to call it a day and head for home.

We can now say we made a skydive in Sweden!

Here’s a photo of the first sign you see walking in.

Chad

Småland

// May 20th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda: This past weekend we decided to make a trip to Småland. It is basically an area in southern Sweden which today is sometimes referred to as the “Kingdom of Crystal”. There are 15 different glassworks located throughout Småland. Chad and I were able to visit 4 of them on Saturday. I was hoping to be able to watch some of the glassblowers actually performing their work, but the glassblowing tours are only held during the weekdays.

Our first glassworks stop was at Mats Jonasson in Målerås. This was by far the best one out of the four. They had a very nice gallery that displayed some of their very expensive glass art work. Also, their products in the gift shop were arranged in a good way and separated by category. Their glass products were truly art rather than glassware used in the kitchen which I enjoyed.

The next three glassworks that we visited were Johansfors, Boda, and Pukeberg. Pukeberg was such a funny name, that I just had to see what it was all about. So, I was able to talk Chad into checking it out. It ended up to being nice with a museum on the lower floor and a gift shop on the second floor.

After our glassworks tours, we headed to Kalmar which is a city on the southeast coast of Sweden. Our hotel was right on the water. It was perfectly located for us to visit the old Kalmar Cathedral and the Kalmar Castle.

When we arrived, we checked into our hotel, then went directly to see the Cathedral. It is an Italian baroque style cathedral, built in the 17th century. The original town of Kalmar was located just beside the castle, but during war with the Danish, the town was constantly being threatened. A decision was then made to move the town just north of the existing location for better protection from the Danes.

Upon arrival to the Cathedral, there was a large crowd outside of the Church, so we assumed that a wedding was just performed. We decided to go to a nearby sportsbar for a quick drink, and then check to see if the crowd had dissipated. We were correct! After about 30 minutes, we were able to visit the inside of the church to take pictures. It was beautiful!

For dinner, we got a great recommendation from our hotel reception. We had dinner next door to our hotel at a restuarant called Hamnkrogen. When we sat down at our table, we were told that we would have shrimps for an appetizer, lamb and potatoes for the main course, and some type of pudding for desert. Chad and I were both very surprised that we didn’t have a choice of what we would have to eat. We didn’t say anything, because we thought we were at special place, and that was just the way it was. After dinner, our waitress told us that she had made a mistake and confused our reservation with someone else. Oh well, she gave us a great discount we enjoyed a meal that we most likely would not have chosen!

On Sunday, our goal was to visit the Kalmar Castle and take a drive over to the island of Öland.

The Castle didn’t open until 11AM, so we decided to take a walk through the old town of Kalmar. The only thing left of the old town was some old cobble stone streets, a garden, a graveyard, and some very nice residental homes.

Chad: After our walk through old town we made our way to the front gate of the castle. It was still a bit early so we decided to walk the outside perimeter. We searched and found the only way up the inside embankment. From there we could walk the entire perimeter of the castle. We found some very old canons used for protection. We could also see all other areas of the city and the sea very easily. By the time we walked the entire outer grounds, it was time for the castle to open up.

We made our way to the central courtyard, then went inside the gift shop and purchased some tour passes. They only offer tours in Swedish, but we were told that all the signs were in English, so we went on our own to tour the Castle. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the Castle. We only have photos from the outside.

We made our way to all areas in the castle. I have listed some that stood out for me.

Off of the side of the banquet hall was the King’s bedroom. It was restored in perfect detail. It had wooden pictures of hunting scenes in extreme detail. I had not seen anything like that.

There was also the prison for men which was just a very deep hole in the ground surrounded by many feet of thick rock. In most cases people were in there for life. They were lowered in with a manual elevator. They were given only bread and water to live on. Fresh air came from a small sewer pipe, believe it or not. They never got out. Prison in those days was extremely difficult compared to today.

All of the rooms in the castle were huge compared to what we are used to. There was a fireplace in each, but I don’t see how it could have warmed up the rooms that big, no matter how large the fire was.

Rhonda: The one room in the Castle that got my attention was the women’s prison. The women were punished a certain way depending on what bad deed was performed. It was written in detail what happened to each.

Each room of the Castle was huge! There was a Queen’s living quarters and a King’s living quarters. Also, a lot of the castle had been restored, especially the ceiling and the floors.

After visiting the Castle, we took a drive over the bridge to the island of Öland. The bridge was completed in 1972.

Basically the island at one time contained over 2000 wooden windmills. Today, only about 300 remain. Chad took some good pictures of a few of them. Also, the Öland Island is known for being very popular for camping! There are a ton of camp sites located throughout.

Check out all of Chad’s pictures from the weekend below!

A Long Weekend in Rome

// May 10th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Chad: After going to London this past weekend, we traveled to Rome this weekend. We really seem to be traveling a lot. So far we have enjoyed it.

We traveled on RyanAir again to Bergamo, Italy. We first thought we would just go to Milan and possibly Venice, but after more research we learned we might enjoy Rome more. From Bergamo, we took a bus to the Milan central train station. The streets are narrow and cars are everywhere. Very aggressive driving by some cars.

Rhonda: During our ride to Milan, I saw what looked like a bunch of tiny little tornado clouds starting from the ground a going up about 10-15 feet or so. There were a ton of these little tornadoes… like I would see about 20, then a little while later, I would see about 20 more. I nudged Chad in the side and said, look at those tiny clouds! What are they? Chad said, “Oh, that reminds me of back home”. What do you mean? Chad said, “They’re mosquitos! We have them back in North Dakota”. Oh my gosh, I don’t want to be near one of those at all. I hope we don’t see anymore of those!

Chad: One of the first things we noticed is very few people speak English so we printed a book of phrases to work on. It is still difficult to communicate, but it does help.

Milan Central is a huge train station. When we arrived, we really could not easily tell
where we were. It appeared we were on the side of the station somewhere. So, we just made our way to the closest street to view the street sign. The street name just happened to be the name of the street where our hotel was on. We started walking and after crossing 2 streets, we realized that we were walking in the wrong direction. We quickly turned around and walked our way to the hotel. A very nice hotel not far from the station.

Rhonda: When we arrived in Milan, I noticed along our route there were a bunch of residential buildings. Everywhere I looked, there was graffiti. Not pretty… It looked like we must be in the older part of town. I was thinking to myself, I am glad we are going to Rome tomorrow…I think city of Milan is just one big industry. The Milan central train station is absolutely huge and from the outside looks more like a historical museum of some sort. Very nice building, but there were a lot of construction everywhere to restore it.

Chad: That evening we had dinner and turned in early for our train ride to Rome in the morning.

Breakfast was a little on the different side. Mainly European style with sandwiches, but they did have somecereal and tea and that turned out good.

From there we checked out and went to the train station. Our ticket was label destination Roma at 8:00 AM. So, we were looking at the list of departures for “Roma” for 8 o’clock. Nowhere to be found. Nothing anywhere. Hmmm, what’s going on?

Rhonda: This was weird not to see “Roma” in the departure list! When we first arrived, I saw a train for “Roma” leaving at 7:10, so I just thought we were early and would see another one for “Roma” at 8 soon. But, it never happened. There were other trains listed that were up to 8:15, so where was our train? I decided to go ask someone. Chad watched our luggage, and I went downstairs to find the information desk. I found a bunch of ticket counters for purchasing tickets, but the lines were long, so I decided ot keep looking for someone else. I found the desk for returns! Ah ha! I will ask this guy. There was a window between us, so he could barely hear me and since I was speaking English, he couldn’t understand me either. He motioned for me to slip my ticket under the divider. He looked at my ticket for a while, and then said, go upstairs and look for “Napoli”. Voilà!! That worked! Grazie! (We later found out Napoli was the final destination of the train and our tickets did not list that fact. So based on our tickets, we were expecting to see the destination to be Rome.)

Our tickets for the train were first class! We had very good seats and a nice ride to Rome! Chad and I actually booked this trip with an agency called “Road to Italy” which has several locations, but location that we used was out of Canada. How funny is that, to book a trip to Italy using a company out of Canada! Anyway, it worked out great, because they scheduled every detail of the trip for us including the hotels, tours, and all of the transportation. This made it a lot easier for us not having to worry about anything. Chad and I have always wanted to visit Rome and we wanted to go last year, but it just wasn’t feasible. We were considering this a late honeymoon, so we kinda splurged on this trip!

When we arrived at 12:30 PM, we had a driver and an assistant waiting for us. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our hotel was only 2 blocks from the train station, so our private transfer only took us 2 whole blocks. We should have walked and it would have been quicker!

We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Mascagni. It was a small 4 star hotel with 40 rooms and in a good location. It was directly across the street from a 5 star hotel. We couldn’t check in until 2, so they told us we could wait in the bar. Without asking, they served us some OJ while we waited. We also had time to figure out what we wanted to do that after noon, because our first tour didn’t start until 8PM.

We were assigned a room on the top floor, the 6th floor. It was very nice, almost too nice… The bar in the hotel was also good. We noticed that it was stocked with many drinks that we knew and you would normally see in the US. (We were there just about everyday twice a day, once before dinner and once afterwards!)

After checking in, we decided to go find some lunch. Before our trip, I had found a website that recommended 10 different restaurants in Rome. Two of them were near our hotel, but closer to the Spanish steps. So, we mapped out how to get to one of them (Ristorante Edy) by using the Subway. Chad and I were not expecting a Subway in Rome due to all of the ruins underground, but yes, there is a Subway, although it’s very minimal and has only 2 main routes. They are working to put in a 3rd route, but it will take time to make sure it is done correctly. Anyway, we made it to the restaurant, but wait, it was closed! We found out that most restaurants in Rome close at 3PM. The typical eating hours in Italy are lunch from 12:30 to 3PM and dinner sometime after 8:30PM. Needless to say, we had to adjust our eating habits.

So, we had to look for another one or some kind of snack, because it was after 3 and I hadn’t eaten since 6AM! We located a fast food pizzeria type place. It wasn’t the best, but at that point it didn’t matter.

Walking back to the hotel, we made a stop at the Spanish steps. There were literally thousands of people packed onto all of the steps and near the fountain at the bottom. We could not believe how many people were there! We learned that the Spanish Steps were created by the French that connects the Spanish Square (Piazza de Spagna) to a French Church (Trinità dei Monti) which is on top of a hill. The Spanish Steps got their name from the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican which was located in the square.

Our first tour started at 8PM that evening. It was called “Rome by Night”. It was a panoramic drive of the city, stopping at a few main sites for a photo opportunity. Our driver was named Franco and he drove a very nice Mercedes. Chad took his tripod along, so Franco soon realized that we wanted to stop whenever we could so Chad could get some great shots of Rome at night.

The sites that we saw were the ruins of ancient and imperial Rome, Coliseum, the Arch of Constantine, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, a panoramic view of the city from Aventine Hill, and a view of St. Peter’s from a keyhole on the gate to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta also located on Aventine Hill. I won’t go in to the details of each of these sites right now, because we revisited each one throughout the rest of the trip and received a history lesson for each! The main purpose of this tour was just to see the sites lit up at night! What a beautiful way to see Rome.

After the tour, we decided to go to the bar in our hotel for a drink and to check out our photos!!

Second Day – Christian Rome & Basilicas

Saturday morning we went down for breakfast at 8:30. The breakfast selection was not as good as the other hotels we have stayed. They didn’t even have scrambled eggs, instead they had some type of bright yellow porridge oats looking stuff. I don’t know what it was. Oh well, I guess I am use to a big variety, but they at least had some cereal which got us by.

Our private tour began at 9:00 am. Our guide was named Valentina. She was going to be our private tour guide for the next few days. It was nice having a guide dedicated just to us. Expensive…but nice! I think we were able to see more and learned a lot more. Also, by having a guide allowed us to skip a bunch of long lines into each site. We learned that Valentina is from Venice. She knew her Roman history perfectly as well as most history concerning the Catholic Church.

The tour was supposed to go to the catacombs first, but Valentina knew that yesterday (May 1st) was Ascension Day and that some of the Churches were celebrating it today, so there was a small change of plans. We went to St. Mary Major Basilica first before it closed for the Ascension Day service. We learned from Valentina that St. Mary’s was built on that specific location because of a dream that Pope Liberius had where the Virgin Mary appeared holding a handful of snow and instructed him to build a church on that location. When the Pope woke up, he immediately went to the location and found the miracle. There was actually snow there and it was in the middle of August!

Our next stop was the Basilica of St. John at Lateran. This is the short or the abbreviated name for the Church. The official full title in English is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of St. John the Baptist and of St. John the Evangelist in the Lateran. Since this was “the” first Church, they wanted everyone to know that it was dedicated to Jesus Christ himself. The name was later shortened since all churches are dedicated to Christ, and since John the Baptist and John the Evangelist both have the same name. The Roman Emperor Constantine acquired the property of Lateran by his second wife. Since it was his own property, he could give it to the Pope for the purpose to build the first cathedral of Rome. St. John’s is actually the former residence of the Pope and is still the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It ranks above all other churches in the Roman Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The Holy Stairs are located just beside St. John at Lateran. According to tradition the staircase was once the path to where the trial of Jesus took place which was presided by Pontius Pilate. However, historians state that the Holy Stairs were brought from Jerusalem to Rome by Constantine’s mother. According to Valentina, the Holy Stairs were brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother and before the Pope’s return from France in approx. 1377, the steps were ordered to be cleaned. During the cleaning, one of the workers mis-read the words on the steps and thought they were steps that Jesus walked on. I don’t know if Jesus actually walked on these steps, but I do know that the Pope dedicated these steps to be Holy. There are a large number of people climbing the steps on their knees while praying everyday.

The next stop was St. Sabastian Catacombs. We found out that St. Sabastian Catacombs is the oldest catacombs in Rome. The catacombs are where approx. 500,000 Christians were buried underground. There are tunnels that stretch for approx. 6-7 miles underground. The catacombs have their own guides, so Valentina didn’t go with us inside. We were told that St. Peter and St. Paul were buried here at one time, but later Valentina said she didn’t believe that herself.

After the catacombs, we walked along the Appian Way (Via Appia in Latin and Italian). It was the first road ever built and the most famous. It was the main route from the center of Rome to south eastern part of Italy where boats left for Greece.

Our next site to visit was where St. Paul was killed and is also the location where all Roman soldiers were killed at that time who were a Christian. It’s also referred to as the three fountains because when St. Paul was beheaded, the legend is that when his head landed on the ground three different springs sprung up from the ground. Valentina told us that all Roman citizens that became Christian were beheaded, because they had lost their minds. Since St. Paul was a Roman citizen, this is why he was beheaded.

The final visit for the day was at St. Paul’s Basilica which is where St. Paul is buried. The original Basilica of St. Paul was built in 4th century. In the 1800’s, a fire broke out while the lead in the roof was being repaired. The ceiling of the Church was made completely out of wood which caused the fire to spread fast. St. Paul’s was completely destroyed, however was rebuilt later to the identical original design. It looks exactly like it use to. The only thing that survived the fire was the mosaic in the front of the church. The gold in the mosaic which was encapsulated by a thick glass from Venice.

It’s amazing how much I learned in Rome and we were there only 3 and 1/2 days!

For dinner, we went back to the restaurant where we tried to eat before… Ristorante Edy. We sat outside on their patio. It was neat to sit outside along one of Rome’s narrow streets. We had spaghetti with seafood cooked in a foil package along with their locally made Cabernet wine. What an excellent day!

Third Day – Ancient Rome & Monuments

Chad: The day started with a panoramic drive through the city. We went by Aventino, Terme di Caracalla, to see the Circus Maximus, Rome’s ancient chariot racing venue, and the Palatine hill above the Roman Forum. The only stop on the drive was at the Knights of Malta to view St. Peter’s through the keyhole. This time we learned a lot more.

Rhonda: The Knights of Malta was basically a community of monks as well as a military order responsible for looking after the sick. Valentina described them as basically being like the the Red Cross.

Chad: Next, we went to the St. Peter in Chains Basilica. We saw the statue of Moses by Michelangelo. Notice what looks like 2 little horns or possibly rays of sunlight coming from the top of his head. This is believed to be there because of the mistranslation of Exodus 34:29-35 by St Jerome. Moses is actually described as having “rays of the skin of his face”, which Jerome in the Vulgate had translated as “horns”. The mistake in translation is possible because the word “karan” in the Hebrew language can mean either “radiated (light)” or “grew horns”.

From there we went to St. Peter in Chains Basilica and saw St. Peter’s chains. According to legend, when Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III) gave Pope Leo I the chains as a gift, he compared them to the chains of St. Peter’s first imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome and the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are kept here under the main altar.

Next, we walked to the Colosseum. The Colosseum or Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

There are 76 entry ways to the Colosseum. It holds about 50,000 people. You have to know exactly where you sit. You would know this by the number above the arch. Because of all these entries they entered in within 30 minutes. If they got their seat wrong they were fed to the animals in the games. That is a terrible punishment for getting it wrong, but also a very good incentive for going to your correct seat.

Rhonda: During bad weather, 1000 soldiers would pull up a sail that covered the entire top of the coliseum. The top would be covered within 30 minutes. We also learned how the animals were lifted into the arena. They used passageways and manually lifted them using ropes similar to an elevator. There was also a wooden cross placed at the center of the arena (like on the 50 yard line). It was placed there in memory of those who were killed.

Chad: From there we went to the Roman Emperor’s residence and the Roman Forum. It was the central area around which ancient Rome was developed, and in which commerce and the administration of justice took place.

Rhonda: The Pantheon was the next main stop. What an amazing building! It was originally built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. It was built in about 125 AD. It is the best preserved building in Rome. It is still in it’s original form. It is the oldest standing domed building in Rome. Valentina mentioned that is was once a governmental building, but since the 7th century, it has been a Church.

The Trevi fountain is the most famous fountain in Rome. The fountain gets its name because of its position at the intersection of three roads. The fountain is positioned at one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied fresh water to Rome since 19 BC. It brings fresh water from over 20 kilometers away. The legend is that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome in the future.

For dinner, we decided to go to Al 34 which is near the Spanish Steps. Another nice reasonable place to eat, but more of a tourist international restaurant.

Fourth day – Vatican City

We had some free time Monday morning before our Vatican tour in the afternoon. We decided to send some postcards and visit the nearby church St. Mary of the Angles and Martyrs which was just one block away from our hotel. This basilica is dedicated to the Christian martyrs, known and unknown. Also inside the Church is a meridian line, a device that measures time by the position of the sun. It was completed in 1702. The church was chosen for the meridian line because of its perfect location to receive the unobstructed exposure to the sun. The Pope wanted to produce a tool that exactly predicted Easter.

At 1:30, we were picked up for a tour of the Vatican. We met Valentina at the Vatican Museum. Before entering, she gave us a little background about what we were going to see.

Chad: We started by going into the museum entrance. From there you can see the double helix staircase. It’s one column of staircase, but one walkway used for entering and the other for exiting. Since 2000, the staircase is only used for exiting due to the increasingly large crowds.

While going through the museum, we saw one of the last remaining bronze statues along with the statue of Laocoön and His Sons.

Rhonda: The Greek mythology story of Laocoön was that he was killed after attempting to expose the Trojan Horse. He believe that the Trojan Horse made by the Greeks was dangerous and would destroy the town of Troy. Laocoön was killed by sea-serpents that strangled Laocoön and his two sons. Laocoön was in fact correct, because the wooden horse contained solders inside and overnight the solders were let out of the horse and slaughtered the Trojans.

Chad: From there we entered the “Halls”. We saw the hall of Tapestries. These were used to keep the
buildings warmer. Some of the tapestries were used in the Sistine Chapel. There were designs by the school of Raphael which show scenes from the life of Christ, and tapestries made in Rome at the Barberini workshops during the 1600s, showing scenes from the life of Maffeo Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII.

We then we through the Candelabra hall and finally through the hall of Maps. The Hall of Maps is 175 meters long which is the last 2 halls put together. It was decorated in the late sixteenth century at the order of Pope Gregory XIII, the reformer of the calendar, to show all of Italy, the major islands in the Mediterranean, the papal possessions in France, as well as the siege of Malta, the battle of Lepanto and large-scale maps of the maritime republics of Venice and Genoa. This gallery is considered by many to be the most beautiful area in the entire Vatican Museums, and its ceiling frescoes, illustrating scenes that took place in the area depicted in each adjacent map, are perhaps one reason why.

Rhonda: Our next major site was the Sistine Chapel. What a beautiful place! The ceiling and the back wall was painted by Michelangelo and both are legendary. Michelangelo was actually a sculptor, not a painter. But since the Pope requested him and allowed him to paint his own biblical scenes of his own choice, Michelangelo agreed to do the paintings. So, these are Michelangelo’s first paintings. Michelangelo was highly respected and no one would challenge his decisions. He was truly a genius. The ceiling which was completed in 1512 was dedicated to Creation, Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood. His painting on the back wall was dedicated to the Last Judgment. It took 6 years to complete. Jesus stands in the center of the painting with his hand raised high like he is going to come down a pounce on someone. We learned from Valentina that Michelangelo did this because the Pope at that time had relations and children after he became Pope. Michelangelo wanted to make a statement to the Pope who would be standing beneath Jesus that he would also be judged after death.

Also, when Michelangelo was almost finished and the scaffolding was being removed, a priest walked in to get a preview of his work. The priest highly objected to the naked figures in the painting. (Michelangelo always sculpted nude people.) The priest accused him of immorality and obscenity. Since Michelangelo did not appreciate this, he painted this particular priest in the lower right hand corner in Hell with a snake biting him in a very unwanted position!

Our last site was St. Peter’s Basilica. If I only had one word to describe it, it would be “impressive”. It is the largest church in the world! We learned that St. Patrick’s in New York City could fit totally inside of St. Peter’s. Everywhere you looked, you would see gold. At the base of the dome that is in the center of the Church is the sentence “Upon this rock, I will build my Church.” (of course its in Latin). The letters in this sentence are actually 9 feet tall!! It is very hard to grasp how large this Church really is.

My only regret is that I wish we had spent more time in St. Peter’s. We didn’t know until the end of the tour, but the Church would actually close at 6PM. This didn’t give us much time to see everything. So, I have one recommendation for anyone who gets the opportunity to visit Rome. Take your time and spend a full day at the Vatican.

For dinner, we found the absolutely best place to eat in Rome. It is called Ristorante La Pentolacci. It is located only a few blocks from our hotel and our bartender recommended it. It was very small, but very romantic. The food was excellent, the staff was friendly, and the price was right!

Rome was by far the best place we have ever been!!!!

Check our all of Chad’s pictures in the gallery below.

A Weekend in London

// April 29th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda: We had another excellent weekend in Europe. We traveled to London to see as much as possible in two days! We flew out late on Friday evening using a budget airline company called RyanAir. It was located at a small airport called Göteborg City Airport in Säve only 17 kilometers from Gothenburg. It is cheap to fly with RyanAir, but they do charge for everything little thing. They charge extra to check in at the airport and for each bag you check. They actually would prefer that you only carry on one bag and check in on-line. Since we are non-Europeans, we were required to pay extra and check in at the airport. With all of their restrictions, it’s more difficult to travel with them, but still worth it because it’s so cheap.

Chad: Our flight took us to Stansted airport which is 30 miles outside of London. We were able to purchase Stansted express train tickets on the flight, so once we arrived, we were able to walk directly the train station (which seemed like a mile) to board our train. The train took 45 minutes and dropped us off in the center of London at the Liverpool station around 11:15PM.

Once at Liverpool station, we made our way to the Red Line underground route for about a 20 minute subway ride to Queenstown station which is right beside our hotel. The subways are excellent and extremely easy to navigate compared to New York City. They do get full sometimes, but it is extremely easy to figure out where to go and they have signs everywhere telling you how to get there. Plus it was all in English! We have not been around English speaking people in 6 weeks now, so it was a welcome treat to be able to understand everything people were saying.

Our hotel was next to the Hyde Park and was very nice, however quite old. When we arrived, they offered us a late light dinner which we had in our room. After our late dinner, we made preparations for our first tour of London leaving at 7:25 AM!

Saturday morning we awoke early, got ready, had a wonderful breakfast, and made our way to the downstairs office where we were picked up on time. Along the way our driver informed us the difference between riding on a bus and a coach and the difference being that coaches are driven by English gentlemen! I don’t know how they do it, but they drive these huge coaches down the smallest most congested roads I have ever seen. It’s amazing and I’m never going to drive in London. We learned it costs 8 pounds per day to drive in the city and parking is so scarce in some areas, it costs 4 pounds to park for 10 minutes. Anyways, if you are in London, use the trains and subways. You can learn them quickly and they are easy to use.

From our “coach” pickup we made our way to a central coach station where all the thousands of tourists are dumped off and put into a sort of gate situation where you go to a gate for a particular tour. We found ours, bought a diet coke, and waited until our tour was called.

Rhonda: Our tour for Saturday was a full day “Total London” group tour with a company called “Premium Tours”. We started the tour off by visiting the Tower of London. The Tower of London has its very own tour guides. They are called Yeomen Warders, also known as the beefeaters. They are responsible for guarding the tower, and today also act as tour guides! I learned that they actually live in the tower somewhere. The Tower of London was built to be used as a residence for the Kings of London and it was also used as a prison. So, its purpose was to protect the King and protect the King from his enemies! I guess the best way to know what your enemy is doing is to keep them near you.

After seeing the Tower of London, we took a cruise down the Thames River! What a great time! Our guide on the boat was the highlight. He made it very entertaining with all his British humor! Along the way, we actually got to see the famous Tower Bridge open (which is a rare occasion) for a very old ship that use to transport goods on the Thames River.

Our cruise went from the Tower Bridge down to the Westminster Bridge. We got an excellent view of the city from the boat. On the tour, I learned that London is actually made up of two cities, one being the City of London which is the financial center, and the other being the City of Westminster, the center of government. Also, we learned that the Millennium Bridge was known as the “Wobbly Bridge” because on the first day that it opened, so many Londoners wanted to cross it; it bounced due to the ton of people! On the first day, they had to shut it down for structure enhancements.

Our next main stop was the Buckingham Palace which was built for the Duke of Buckingham, but is now a royal residence for the Queen of London. Many royal celebrations and banquets are held there. It was a beautiful place! All of the iron gates were of gold leaf made to last a very long time and in front center was an incredible gold statue of Queen Victoria!

Lunch was held at an English pub called Whitehall which was near Trafalgar Square. During lunch, we had a very nice chat with a couple from St. Louis, Missouri. Like us, they were there of course visiting London, but had plans to see Paris as well. I believe their names were Julie and John. Like my parents, they love the game of golf. John was the general manager for a golf resort just outside of St. Louis!

That afternoon, we got to see St. Paul’s Cathedral! It was my favorite site of the day. We had our own personal tour guide that gave us a lot of insight. We found out that there had been many churches that stood on this location, but the current St. Paul’s was designed by Christopher Wren, who took on the task to build a new Church after the Great Fire of London destroyed the old St. Paul’s in 1666. Wren wanted the Cathedral to be in a shape of a cross and contain a huge dome. However, his designed was not approved to include the dome due to it being a radical design and would cost too much, so the Church would have spire instead. Wren, being very clever, wrote in tiny print in the contract with the King that architecture/structural changes of the design could be performed. So in spite of it all, Wren got the design he wanted! It did, however, cost way too much money to build and money had to be taken from Westminster Abbey which is a Church dedicated to St. Peter in order to complete it. This incident was where the old phrase “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” came from. Chad had heard of this phrase, but it was new to me!

The main section of the Church is directly under the Dome. The Church contains actually 2 domes, an interior dome inside the Church and the other being the external dome that sits on top of the interior dome. Before we left the Church, we were able to climb 259 steps to a gallery called the Whispering Gallery which is a walkway surrounding the interior dome. Supposable, you can whisper at any point against its wall in the dome and someone on the opposite side with their ear held to the wall can hear the whisper. Chad and I tried this, but it was unsuccessful. Chad learned though later that we should have been whispering a little higher on the wall.

Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take pictures inside St. Paul’s, but we did take a few from the outside!

Our last sightseeing event on Saturday was a ride on the London Eye. The London Eye was build by British Airways, and on the first day of opening, it broke! To satisfy all of the special guests that came for the first ride, they were given a free round trip flight anywhere in the world for all of their trouble. I think I would have been satisfied with that compromise! The ride itself was neat and we had an awesome view on top! The only downside of riding the London Eye was that we had to wait in a long line for an hour and a half.

That evening, I was able to talk Chad into going out to dinner and then to a show. We had dinner at Ruby Blue bar/restaurant which was next to Leicester Square and then went to see a play called Mousetrap at St. Martin’s Theater! What a great way to end our first full day in London!

On Sunday, we took a tour with “Photo Walks of London”. If you are into photography with lots of equipment or you just want to take a bunch of great pictures with any point and shoot camera, this is the tour for you. We basically had a private tour by two Londoners (Ian and Bill) for a full day, since no one else had signed up! I think I enjoyed it more than the tour we took on Saturday. The reason being, we could ask as many questions as we wanted, and they lead Chad to some great spots in London to get the perfect shot! We walked all over the city. I bet we walked about 10 miles or so. We started at 9:45 AM and we ended the tour at 5:30 PM. I don’t think I have ever walked so much in one day. But truthfully, walking is absolutely the best way to see London.

The tour began by seeing the “Changing of the Guards”. There are British soldiers who guard Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace which is a royal residence as well. The soldiers also perform other duties besides guarding royal residences. The “Changing of the Guards” process involves new guards exchanging duty with the old guards. This occurs every other day and during this exchange, a historical ceremony is performed. The handover is accompanied by a marching band. It is quite impressive and attracts thousands of people.

Chad: From there, we started walking to Buckingham Palace and took a few pictures of the flowers along the way.

Once at the palace, we braved some light rain and took shots of the band entering the palace. There were thousands of people everywhere trying to get a good look. Ian and Bill placed us in some good locations to catch some great shots.

From the palace we went to the Trafalgar Square. It is located near the center of London and has many events going on all the time. It is a popular site for political demonstrations and is the site of Nelson’s Column.

Rhonda: We had lunch at Blackfriars pub. The outside of the pub doesn’t look very appealing, it was a triangular shaped building, but the inside of the building is a work of art. The walls are out of marble and there are detailed wood carvings absolutely everywhere you look. If your ever in London, you must make a visit to this pub! The area of Blackfriars in London was originally a monastery and the pub where we had lunch was built near the site of the monastery.

In the afternoon, we explored the South Bank of London. We walked along the river starting from the Waterloo Bridge down to London Bridge. Chad was able to capture some of London’s classic views of the city.

We ended the tour on Sunday at 5:30 PM only because we couldn’t walk any further! Our feet and legs were starting to hurt. I was actually getting sharp pains in the middle of my right foot! (very strange…because this has never happened to me before!)

Before our trip back to Stansted airport, we had to go back to our hotel to get our luggage. We asked them to store it for the day. So, we took the subway back and decided just to have dinner there at the hotel. We had Chicken Tikka Marsala with Rice. It was an excellent meal if you like spicy foods.

Our flight back to Gothenburg was at 7:00 AM on Monday. Therefore, we had booked a hotel for Sunday night only 10 minutes away from the Stansted airport, so that we would not have to wake up at 3AM in the center of London. So, instead we woke up at 4:15 because Chad wanted to get there early!

Chad: (Be aware we only had 15 minutes of time to rest before we boarded the plane. If we had left 20 minutes later, we probably would not have made it to the aircraft on time.)

It was a great trip and we definitely can recommend it if you get the opportunity to go.

Check out the three galleries below to view all of our pictures from London! Also, by “hovering” over the image in the gallery with your mouse, you will see a description of the photo.

Botaniska Trädgården

// April 21st, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Goteborgs Botaniska Tradgarden.This afternoon we went to Göteborgs Botaniska Trädgården. This is an amazing area to visit and enjoy. It’s in the middle of Göteborg and very easy to get to. It’s about 430 acres in size. On a nice day, such as Sunday afternoon, there are many people, families, and friends walking and taking in the midday sun. Today was a perfect day.

We started on Sunday afternoon by taking the tram to Linnéplatsen and finding a Subway restaurant to get some dinner for the afternoon. This was our first American restaurant we have been to since arriving here. We could not believe how many people were eating there. It was amazing. The line of people stretched out the door. After about a half hour we made it through the line and finished taking the tram to the gardens.

We started by going to the greenhouse since it closed at 4:00 pm. We spent about an hours going through the buildings. There were many types of plants and flowers. A huge number of orchids were seen in many of the rooms. They had ponds with gold fish and turtles swimming around. Families with their children were busy looking and taking pictures nears the ponds. Here’s a picture of a flower in the greenhouse.

After going through the greenhouse we started walking the grounds. We went through a rock garden, an area of rhododendrons, and a Japanese Glade where we took our picture.

We found our way to the top of the grounds where we discovered an outlook facing the sun, overlooking the city. A beautiful site.

We spent the rest of the afternoon eating some dinner and finding our way to the front gates. This is an incredible place to visit and we’ll be coming back at the end of May or beginning of June when more of the flowers are in bloom.

Here are a few more photos of the visit.

On a random side note, one of the thing I notice around here is many many families are out walking around on a Sunday afternoon with their children. I don’t remember seeing this happening in the States with this many families.

Chad

Göteborg’s Archipelago – Brännö

// April 20th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

On the boat to Goteborgs Archipelago - BrannoToday turned out to be a perfect day for sun. Probably the best day since we have been here. We decided to go to an island called Brännö and do a walking tour. We walked from the apartment to central station about 15 minutes away. We bought a few new tram passes and we were on our way.

About 10:15 we arrived at Saltholmen. From there you can take a boat to any of the nearby islands for the cost of a regular tram ticket. The boats are part of the bus system and easy to use. We were 45 minutes early so we explored the area and ended up on top of the surrounding hills for a great view of the area.

The ride to the island was very quick at only 20 minutes long. We found ourselves on the North side of the island at the port called Rödsten. The first thing you notice as you exit the boat is there are no cars. The roads, rather walkways, are not really big enough for a vehicle. However, there is a single taxi that we saw a few people getting into. There are many mopeds with the front converted to a platform where they can carry 3 people or a bunch of stuff. Finally there are many bikes and lots of people walking.

We started exploring the island by walking to the center and finding the one restaurant on the island. We had an amazing fish dinner with some fried potatoes. That prepared us for our afternoon of walking. Here’s a picture of the restaurant.

Once we finished lunch we walked down to the South end of the island to the port of Husvik. The is not much on this end of the island. However, we did find a dance pier which is used in the summer. Also, we found lots of people just laying around on the rocks and shoreline soaking up the sun. It was a perfect day to be out.

From here we headed North to the center of the island and from there to the west side. It’s a little over a kilometer to the west. Once we arrived at the end of the main road, the next road turned out to be just a trail. It’s just a bunch of rock folded up and about with piles of muddy dirt between them. The trail was left in it’s original state and makes for an interesting hike.

Eventually we found a bay area with a great view of the harbor. We could see a lighthouse, many boats, and lots of different birds. We could even see where Rhonda worked on the mainland.

We spent about another hour taking photos from a high point and enjoying the great weather.

Here are more photos of the trip. (Hold your mouse pointer over the thumbnail to see the caption. We turned off all the java code, which includes picture captions, due to the long download times.)

Chad

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