Archive for April, 2008

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

Götaälvbron bridge…(and a root filling)

// April 16th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

This is a 100 year old Danish ship that sailed around the world trading. It is now used as a hotel and restaurant.Today started with a little operation at the dentist office, Akuttandvården, on Odinsgatan just a 5 minute walk from the apartment.

The infection was a bit more difficult than they first thought and had to do a root filling. It took about 1.5 hours. There’s a lot of detail I’d rather not write about, but afterwards when the painkiller wore off it felt great. No more hot/cold sensitivity. The dentist who did the work was amazing and so far has done a great job fixing my tooth. (I might have been able to prevent all this if I’d listened to Rhonda back in December.) I have 1 more appointment in May to get it capped.

Later that day, after dinner, we walked to the Götaälvbron bridge about 20 minutes away to see if we could take a few pictures. It was a confusing walk going through the maze of roads to get onto the bridge. After a try to two, we finally made it onto the correct side of the bridge and started our walk to the center.

It turned out to be cooler than we first anticipated. The wind was a steady breeze which became cooler as sunset approached. Anyways, we took a few good ones and these will give you a little idea of what we were up to.

This is a 100 year old Danish ship that sailed around the world trading. It is now used as a hotel and restaurant.

Here’s one of the “Lipstick” building and the same ship.

While on the bridge many buses and cars were speeding by shaking the structure as we were taking pictures. Here you can see the blur of one passing by us.

Finally, I just like this one of the road and walking path returning home. There is a very cool breeze, the sun has set, there’s bridge steel shaking as a bus goes by, some of the city background shows and finally you can see a few signs along the way.  Chad

Walking Tour / Soccer / Dancing Cranes

// April 14th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda on one of the sculptures walking down a street in Gothenburg.Saturday, we decided to take a walking tour in the middle of Gothenburg. We first had some lasagna for lunch at Café Opera. Café Opera is located on a street called Linnégatan which is popular for restaurants and bars. We wanted to hit a place called Texas Longhorn (sound familiar), but it and most of the restaurants were not open until 1PM. I was surprised that very few restaurants were not open at noon for lunch! They work crazy hours here…much worse than the shops in northwest Arkansas.

Along our walk, the only thing worth mentioning is a place called Annedal. Annedal is an old working-class district that was built in the 1870s. It was considered a highly elite area for Gothenburg’s working class people. It is basically one main street that still has a row of two story red brick houses from the elite neighborhood. You could definitely tell the unique area based on the other buildings near by. Also, there is a small museum located on the property, but it was only open on Sunday afternoons.

We went to a soccer game Saturday evening! The Ullevi stadium where all the soccer games are held is only minutes from our apartment. Did I mention before that our apartment is in a perfect location? A match between IFK Göteborg (which is my favorite team here in Sweden!) and IFK Norrköping was held at 4PM. I have actually seen IFK Göteborg play many times during previous trips to Gothenburg and Chad has seen them play once before as well. So, we have grown quite fond of this team. The games are quite exciting. There is usually an entire section in the stadium fenced off for the “ultimate” fans that stand and yell for their team the entire game. The cheers are to common tunes, but of course the cheers are in Swedish! There was even one cheer where everyone held up one of their shoes! It was almost more exciting to watch the fans than the game. The game was great though, Göteborg won 4-0!

Sunday, we headed up to Lake Hornborga about an hour north near a small town called Skara. Lake Hornborga is known for the tens thousand or more cranes that visit yearly during March and April. It is a wetland made up mainly marshy/swampy areas which is why all the birds are attracted to the lake. I have never seen so many cranes. Approximately 8000 cranes were there during our visit, but just over a week ago, there were more than 15,000. You can check out the crane statistics here. The cranes normally start appearing at the beginning of March, and by the end of March (or beginning of April) the large flocks arrive. All of the cranes were returning after a winter in Spain! Toward the end of April, the cranes continue to migrate north. It was very nice to just hang out and watch all of the birds. I also learned later that there were 31 different species of birds seen that day.

Overall, a very relaxing weekend in Gothenburg!

Rhonda

Check out all of Chad’s photos from the weekend below.

Copenhagen / København

// April 7th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda on the ferry on our way to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on the way to Copenhagen.On Saturday morning at 7AM, Chad and I drove down to Copenhagen for the weekend. We were told beforehand, that the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art north of Copenhagen was worth a visit. To get to the museum, we had to drive to Helsingborg and take a 30 minute ferry over to Denmark. I will just say, thank goodness for the GPS that was loaned to us by one of my co-workers. It took us straight there. It worked so well, that I think Chad might be buying one when we return to Greensboro.

The ferry ride took us from Helsingborg, Sweden to Helsingør, Denmark. Yes, two communities are named the same, but of course spelled slightly different in Danish. The distance between them is a only 4000 meters and is the shortest distance between the two countries. These 2 communities were built to control the shipping along the narrow strait. I think a long time ago, it was “one” city.

Everything is more expensive in Denmark than in Sweden except for alcohol. Most Suedes take the ferry just to buy cheap beer. Chad and I didn’t have that on our to-do list, so we forgot to take advantage of this. We only thought of it as we were driving off of the boat.

When we arrived at the Louisiana Museum, we found out that their spring exhibition was dedicated to Cézanne & Giacometti. To my surprise, Chad had studied Cézanne in school.  Here I was taking time to read the biographies of both amazing artists and Chad already knew them and started wandering off to view their work.  The exhibition consisted of 60 works by Cézanne and 110 works by Giacometti.   They were truly incredible and a great opportunity for us to experience.

After viewing the collections, we decided to have lunch. Lunch was so expensive, that I decided to just go for dessert and hot chocolate. We then walked the gardens surrounding the museum which were very nice. One thing that was quite funny was when we ran across a couple of sculptures that were labeled “Eyes”. They were definitely not eyes in my opinion; they should have been labeled “Big Boobies”.  They were so funny, I made Chad take a picture!

Once in Copenhagen, we used the indispensable GPS to locate our Hotel. It was quite confusing to maneuver around town, it seemed worse than Gothenburg. Our hotel was called “Phoenix Copenhagen”. It was a very nice hotel centrally located to virtually everything we wanted to see.

After checking in, we headed off to see some of the sites. We first saw Frederik’s Church, known as the Marble Church. The Church has the largest dome in Scandinavia with a span of 31 meters. They say the inspiration probably came from the Pantheon in Rome. The top of the dome contained pictures of all twelve disciples. It was beautiful.

The next stop was the Amalienborg Palace which is the winter home to the Danish royal family. It consists of 4 identical buildings originally built for 4 noble families. There were 3 royal guards constantly pacing the exterior guarding the place.

We then walked to the edge of the canal to view the new Opera house. The Opera house was built in 2005 and is among the most modern opera houses in the world.

Our walk continues down the edge of the water toward the Gefion fountain. The fountain is of a woman holding a whip over four bulls. A quote taken from Rough Guide to Scandinavia states: “The fountain’s sculpted figure is by Anders Bundgaard and shows the goddess Gefion with her four sons, whom she’s turned into oxen having been promised, in return, as much land as she can plough in a single night. The legend goes that she ploughed a chunk of Sweden, then picked up the piece of land (creating Lake Vanern) and tossed it into the sea – where it became Zealand.” Adjacent to the fountain stood the only Anglican Church in
Denmark built in 1895.

Our evening walking tour ended at the Little Mermaid. This famous statue was actually smaller than I expected. This small statue is one of Copenhagen icons and attracts many visitors.

For dinner, we had a craving for Italian food. Just by coincidence, there was a little Italian place 2 blocks from our hotel. It was called “Al Mercante”. The food and wine were excellent.

I was told by a co-worker that we absolutely must have a beer in Nyhavn during our visit to Copenhagen. Nyhavn is part of the original harbor dating all the way back to when Copenhagen was founded in the 12th century. Today, it is the Dane’s recreational center of town with lots of restaurants and bars. Also, old sailing boats and the harbor canal tour boats can be seen there. So, after dinner, we had to go buy a beer in Nyhavn!

Sunday morning after a big breakfast at our hotel, we went to see the Citadel of Copenhagen which is one of the best preserved fortresses in Europe from the 17th century. It was built to secure the northern entrance of the harbor. Today it is still used as military location. On site was a nineteenth century Dutch style windmill, which still works today. They run it once per year. Check out Chad’s great picture of the windmill below.

For lunch,we went back to Nyhavn to have lunch next to the canal. We found a place that servedhamburgers, so that sounded good to us. While there, we noticed a commotion right next to us. There was a drunken guy only wearing his underwear sitting on the edge of the water! People started gathering around him. We could just sit there and watch the whole thing. All of a sudden, the guy jumped into the freezing cold water!! We could not believe it. I saw someone use their cell phone, so I assumed they were calling the police! There were several people trying to help him. He was able to swim to a ladder near by and climbed back up to put his cloths on. It turns out that there was a bar next door that is open 24 hours every day, and some people like him were there all night. Our waitress told us that there were people trying to talk him into jumping and some trying to talk him out of it!!

Following that little excitement, we made our way to our last place to visit which was the Rosenborg Castle. The castle was quite a place. It was built to be used as a summer home in 1606 for King Christian IV. The King designed the castle himself and it took more than 20 years to build. Today, the castle is a museum and also contains Denmark’s crown jewels.

It was a great trip!

Rhonda

Volvo Museum

// April 2nd, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

The Volvo MuseumFirst thing, my tooth is doing much better. It is starting to heal and I should be able to crown it by the 15th or so.

Today, lunch time brought us the opportunity to visit the Volvo Museum. We started the tour by watching a short movie describing how the business was started and grew up over the years. After that we spent about an hour walking the grounds.

A lot of it was dedicated to the first cars Volvo developed. Everyone one of the cars was in perfect condition and shined bright. Other sections of the museum showed the jet engines Volvo builds and the aircraft they were used in. If fact they had 3 delta wing jet fighters in that building in various cut out stages. There were also sections on concept cars, trucks, big equipment, and marine engines.

It was a lot of territory to cover in just 1 hour. For anyone coming to Göteborg I would highly recommend it if you have a free afternoon.

Chad

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