Friday, September 27, 2013


Atop Calton Hill looking back at old town Edinburgh

It was a quick flight over to Edinburgh, and straight onto a double decker bus and just like that we were in a different world. This still even amazes me in Europe. For us, especially Amy having not been there before, it was just brilliant that we were able to experience so many vastly different places and people with the relative ease possible across Europe.

Taxis on the Royal Mile
Steak & Ale pie with some pints

We had a perfect few days in Edinburgh, taking in all that the old city of 'Dunedin' (Dùn Èideann in Scottish Gaelic) had to offer. The romantic styling of such a medieval and historic city was the perfect way to arrive in Great Britain. We again took the free walking tour, which opened up a world of history of hangings, wars, Kings and Queens and the such of which medieval folk used to indulge. We had made it a big goal to get out to some good pubs and get involved in some traditional cask ales. We even went for a half pint during our tour, and a full pint afterwards with our Aussie tour guide. Lunch, afternoon and evening we were wetting our whistles but unfortunately I was a little disappointed. I just never found any big tasty pale ales or IPAs that I had expected out of the home of the ale. Amy was also a bit bummed as the British don't seem to be making much of her favorite style, wheat beer. I still appreciated that all bars stocked at least one hand pull, and I did love the well temperatured, lowly carbonated, be it mild, ales.

An unexpected stunner of a day followed a foggy morning. We did a little shopping and after a lunch time ale or two headed for the botanic gardens. It was so beautifully sunny and sheltered that we took a nice rest in the sun along with half the population of Edinburgh, not surprising with the unreliability of Scottish weather.

Rose Street
After falling completely asleep for an hour and a half we walked around the old town further, took in good views of Edinburgh Castle and the Queen's Scottish residence: the Palace of Holyroodhouse from the Calton Hill and headed for a backpackers style dinner, involving an assortment of 'reduced for quick sale' items from Tesco supermarket. That evening, pushing our daylight hours to the max, we walked up the hill of Arthur's Seat. Just out of the old town center down the Royal Mile. It's a steep walk, but with a gorgeous overlook across the city, perfect for a late evening sunset, but with very brisk wind at the top!!. 

Atop Arthur's Seat

Friday, September 20, 2013


Amy at Florø 
Norway was one of those places where the journey was the adventure itself. Not in the sense of getting lost or missing connections, but the fact that every boat, bus and train ride was through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. We started with our overnight ship voyage from Copenhagen to Oslo. With our room situated well under the waterline, even below the two levels of cars, we spent most of the journey sitting up on deck watching the coast of Denmark disappear, following Sweden and welcoming Norway and the Oslo fjord in the morning. We enjoyed the long purple sunset late in the evening, that being the only snippet of darkness of our whole time in Norway.

Coincidentally meeting up with Diane and Shannon who were in Oslo for two days on their way back to New York, the four of us spent a brief time seeing some sights in and around Oslo. Our highlight being the Viking Ship museum, which we had to take a ferry to from across the harbor. On our way in, an American man spotted Thomas' Beaver Creek T-shirt, chatted to us, and eventually gave us free tickets into the museum! We also caught a view of the royal palace and the site of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony between some serious rain downpours. We walked around the famous Vigeland Sculpture gardens, the old world Akershus Fortress and saw the sun attempting to set from atop the iceberg inspired opera house.

Thomas getting stuck into the view

A very early morning train, for bargain tickets, saw us enjoy the acclaimed 7 hour, 'most scenic train journey in the world' from Oslo to Bergen on the west coast. It was truly spectacular. Winding up out the back into deep fjords through green hills to desert like highlands over the center of the densely snow capped rolling mountains. The train would even stop and give us 10 minutes to check out the view in a few places.

Norwegian highlands


We had a few hours to wiz about Bergen before our bus to Førde. We returned later in the week for a night before our flight to Edinburgh to take on some more of the old coastal fishing town of 300,000 people, the second biggest city in Norway. The brightly painted historic old wharf house buildings, being a World Heritage Site, were a standout as was the view from the top of the town hill. There were fish markets at the harbor side, selling whale, reindeer and elk meat. The city had a real vibrancy but still maintained that small coastal town feeling.  

Our bus ride from Bergen to Førde, dare I say it, was the most spectacular I have ever taken. A good 4 hours of just ducking under mountain after mountain popping out along fjord after fjord, lit up under the brightest sun imanigable. Our journey also included a ferry boat to cross a sizable fjord! We eventually made it to Førde, and drove another 40 minutes still to our final stop at the Garlick's farm. We were staying with Rod's friend and my old boss Pete from Sheffield, who now owns a small farm up in the hills by a very small lake called Nes.

Out the back of the Garlick's farm

They live in a little slice of heaven out there, with 50 sheep, a few fields and mountains in every direction. We stayed for five days, helping out a bit on the farm, and went off on a few day trips and shared a glass or two of beer.
Fishing in Nes
Pete's wife Ginny took us out on a walk in the hills to say hello to some of their sheep, and later we were tasked with making a large bonfire to clear a paddock and we even shoveled out the winter shed. We were awarded with some fantastic hardy dinners though, and we both even enjoyed reindeer stew one night! One evening we paddled a boat out onto the lake with a couple of beers and a few fishing lines, taught Amy how to fish for the first time and came away with two nice wee rainbow trout. Made for fantastic eating the following evening.

Heaven, even in the rain
Driving the farm van, we headed to the coast at Florø and once again were just blown away with the surrounding steep fjords. How this country nestles itself amoungst this topography still bemused me, but they seem to make it work, utilising lots of tunnels is key. We even stopped and chatted with an extremely friendly Norwegian man, Amy first asking him if he spoke English in Norwegian, and once he said yes, he didn't stop! Another day we drove inland, getting way out into some awesome mountains, and gorgeous waterfalls. We sighted Europe's largest glacier and just felt completely overwhelmed by our surroundings.

Having a place to stay and dinner on the table, we thought we might have kept the spending down. But no, Norway was expensive, out of this world expensive. It was worth every cent though, and we look forward to visiting Pete and Ginny out on their farm again.

Lost somewhere in Norway



After a 14 hour over night train ride, I (Amy) finally arrived in Copenhagen. Having left Thomas in Amsterdam, I arrived anxiously hoping that he had gotten the message to my mom and that someone was waiting for me, which they were. Having heard stories all my life of the family my mom lived with while doing an exchange for University in Denmark, words couldn't describe the excitement I was feeling. My mom and her Danish "sisters" Lisbet and Birte have stayed in contact all these 30 plus years, but Lisbet and my mom have always been closest. They've seen each other a few times since, and Lisbet's daughter Line has come to stay with my family in the US twice in recent years. Shannon and my mom had been in Denmark for a few days and using a 'Copenhagen Card' giving you access to basically everything-museums, trains, buses, canal rides, castles etc. So we got one for me and ducked right into the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. The museum for the 'Father of Fairytales' was entertaining with moving characters depicting some of his most famous stories like, The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. We soon made our way over to Tivoli Gardens, where we met up with Line and her one year old son Carl and had a delicious, but expensive, Danish lunch.

Birte, Lisbet, Shannon, Amy and Diane

Using our Copenhagen Cards, we popped quickly into the Royal Stables at the Christianborg Palace and saw just that, the royal horses and carriages. While waiting for a canal cruise I spotted what was probably the most fascinating and strange thing in all of Copenhagen, the underwater statute of the Merman and his Seven Sons. After trying to figure out if these underwater people should actually be there, was some form of artwork or just a mistake of some sort, we made our way to a canal ride. Besides having to duck every time the boat went under a bridge, due to the only 2 inch gap, and besides still being in the clothes I wore nearly 24 hours earlier before the grueling train ride, it was a perfect and beautiful afternoon with my family.

The day I arrived in Denmark was also my sister Shannon's birthday along with my mom's just a day earlier. So that night we took the train out to Birte's house where she was hosing a Danish Birthday dinner for us. We learned that on someone's birthday, you put out Danish flags, and they had them everywhere, even on the tablecloth! We dined with her husband Stig and her two daughters Rikke and Mathilde. They never allowed our glass to get near empty, and the traditional Danish food was out of this world. The most memorable thing of the evening and of all of Denmark for me was the surprise Danish birthday song they all sang for my sister and the two cakes they brought out. It was such a shame that Thomas couldn't be there.

Amy in the center square of Kronborg Castle

The next day we planned to head out to Kronborg Castle for the day, which was also the inspiration for Hamlet's Castle in Shakespear's play. We caught the tour around the castle, learned some of the history of the rooms, and the excessive parties that were thrown there, saw where the King forced his army to sleep in the dungeons in order keep hidden in case of an invasion from Sweden, and saw Holger, the Sleeping Viking statue, there to awaken if needed to defend Denmark. This castle is situated on the Northernmost point of the island of Zealand, the narrowest gap between Sweden and Denmark and it was amazing to be able to see Sweden across the sound. We quickly had lunch in the adorable nearby town of Helsingor and then rushed back to the city to try and meet up with Thomas at the train station. Unfortunately we were both waiting under different clocks, and it took 2 hours and a bit of frantic running around to find each other. Then straight back for Carlsberg beer and a traditional smørrebrød at Lisbet's house!

Thomas, Lisbet, Shannon and Diane

We spent the entire next day trying to show Thomas as much of Copenhagen as possible. We took Shannon's Copenhagen Card so that the two of us could go into all the attractions together. We saw the crown jewels at the Frederiksborg Castle, the changing of the guards at the Amalienborg Palace, climbed to the top of the circular Rundetaarn and saw the view of the city, saw the gorgeous and really funky tapestries made in the year 2000 for the royal family at the Christiansborg Palace, walked through Tivoli gardens, went up the "Walking Street" and sat in the square and ate a Danish hotdog and hamburger from a street vendor. We walked down the absolutely gorgeous street of Nyhavn, before it got too crowded with tourists, and finished the day by catching our ferry and starting our journey to Norway!

Nyhavn (New Harbor)

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This is Amsterdam
Having hookups while traveling is for sure the best way to get the most out of your time and money. Visiting Amsterdam was enhanced in this way as we stayed with my buddy from Sheffield, England now living in Amsterdam. Bryce for sure sorted us out with some of the most authentic experiences of our travels, in a place known for it overly touristy settings.
Beautiful Amy over a main canal

Bryce collected us off the train at the central station on the most beautiful sunny day after our fast and convenient rail journey from Paris. With a train change in Belgium, we had the quick opportunity for Amy to buy some chocolates and I bought a beautiful champagne style bottle of Choffee Breweries Belgian Double IPA. We took the tram with him back to his apartment only 15 minutes away. It was the perfect day to showcase his new adopted home which he did in style. We jumped straight onto his bikes and had a cycling tour of some beautiful residential areas with a true Dutch vibe and culture, far from Amsterdam's dingy reputation. We parked our bikes and walked on foot along canals, met a local cat enjoying the sun as much as we were and stopped for a beer at a street side cafe. I purchased a booty of local craft beers from a small bottle shop but just had to play guess work as to what beers I was actually buying, as Bryce was unfamiliar with the Dutch beer terminology on the labels. We battled through rush hour cycling traffic, an absolutely awesome adventure, back home and enjoyed a home cooked curry in the evening cooked by Bryce's girlfriend, Alice. 

Thomas and Bryce
We played tourist for a day in town with the free waking tour of the city which involved the usual fascinating stories of the past and present history of the famous city. We had an unfortunately long wait for our canal cruise but cheered ourselves up with some delicious mayonnaise drenched fries and a stroll around the red light district. We relaxed in a little picnic in a local park in the afternoon with our two hosts and later enjoyed some well priced and good quality beers at a few local establishments. 

Fancy beers in fancy glasses
All going to plan, we were set for a long bus journey the following day. As it turns out we ended up missing our bus after being at the station for our bus. After lots of stressing Amy jumped on a train as to not mess up her plans of meeting her mum in Copenhagen and arrived only a few hours later than originally planned. Hurt the wallet at 140 Euros and meant I had to hang out in Amsterdam for another day and a half to get the next bus. 

Le Paris

The Eiffel Tower
Amy on a small street in Montmarte
We had a confusing flight coming into Paris, with an overnight flight (with a quick stopover in Iceland) arriving at 6am. We were totally on board to try to shrug off any chance of jet lag, but it did turn out way harder than we thought. Being all confused and with the weather playing games on us, being either cold and rainy at times we just went out and got a feel for the city, we were in Paris of after all. We enjoyed some pastries, visited the Notre Dame, saw the outside of the Louvre and walked along the bank of the river Seine. We made our way to the seedy area of town housing the Moulin Rouge and just before the rain hit we strolled the old streets of Montmarte, the artists district. With a large plaza with artists selling and painting, while crafts were set on the high ground next to the Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. The area maintained such authentic character, which unfortunately some areas have lost due to the level of tourism. Later with a few French beers, I (Thomas) made friends with some young Aussies who were early in their travels and decided to talk their ears off with advice and somehow managed to drink all my beers till the late hours. Somehow not making it to bed till after 11pm, when at 5pm all I could think about was the insides of my eyelids. Sensibly, Amy made it to bed at 9pm (after 36 hours of being awake).

The Sacre-Coeur
The next day we had a lot to see at Versailles, the Royal Palace. Amy loved the busker accordion artist playing along our train journey, which was a great start to a fantastic day. We spent the morning wandering the royal gardens and luckily worked out that buying tickets at a ticket office on the walk from the train station was a far quicker selection over queuing for hours at the gates. The gardens were extensive, with the most amazing musically coordinated fountains, sculptured hedges and trees, statues and the large canal pond. We just wandered and got lost enjoying the surroundings. For the afternoon we jumped inside the palace itself, along with an audio guide, we got a cool showing of the features and significance of the many decorated rooms, halls and features. We finished the night with a huge pizza from a small shop in the Bastille District where our backpackers was located.

Looking over a small part of the gardens at Versailles
Our last day in Paris, we headed through the Bastille District again and stumbled upon a amazing street market, of the greatest proportion I have ever seen. Hundreds of meters long with multiple rows of stalls of food, crafts, wine and produce. We rustled together a fine allotment of food to make a wonderful picnic lunch which we ate together later at the Tuleries sitting in-front of the main fountain even with a miniature sail boat bobbing round in the breeze. Cured ham, bread rolls, cheese and a bottle of wine, it was pretty French and pretty perfect.
Pont Alexandre III

Spring gardens behind Notre-Dame
We took a free walking tour in the afternoon, which took in too much of the city to mention, but it was more about the entertaining stories that went along with the locations we were visiting. In just 4 hours we had made our way from the Latin Quarter to the Champs-Elysees. We then made our way up to the Arc de Triomphe, mesmerised by the traffic and the amazing weather. With the Eiffel tower calling from the distance, that sunset kiss from atop which Amy had always been dreaming of was waiting. We took the stairs and made it to the 2nd platform just as it looked like the sky was on fire, it was amazing, enough so bring a tear to Amy's eyes when I gave her a little smooch. To top off our time in Paris, we sat on the lawns looking up at the Eiffel Tower finishing off our bottle of wine while the tower twinkled amongst the darkness.

Sunset from the Eiffel Tower

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lake Erie

Matt, Sarah, Sedg, Thomas and Amy with a sunset over Lake Erie.
Shortly before we were headed off from America, we had one little trip left. We headed off to stay for a few days with our new friend Sedg at his family's beautiful lake side home at the Great Lake of Lake Erie, in Pennsylvania. He is a long time friend of Matt and had come out to Colorado to visit during the winter. This was just the most epic way of leaving America and saying goodbye to our friends. In total it was Sedg, Matt and Sarah, Amy and I along with Sedg's parents, Gordon and Lida. 

It was a good wee drive away from Stamford, so we bravely set of at 4 am to get the most out of our time.  Amy had a nice sleep while I drove, but that's ok as it was so nice to see the sun rise across New York State while driving across deserted highways. The weather was beautiful but still early in spring, so there was a chill in the air. Luckily, with the spa sitting perched above the lake, we had no trouble enjoying the view and keeping warm.
We visited a local museum in town, ventured out to Pesquale Isle, a small peninsula jutting out into the lake with lovely beaches and a old lighthouse and stopped to talk to the local brewer at the brew pub Brewerie. I was super stoked to finally have a go on a SUP, stand up paddle board, and I did pretty well with balance but a stiff wind made for tough paddling. I did do better than Sarah though who got completely swept away and I had to swim out after her and rescue her. We were well fed by Mr. Sedgwick who cooked us a fish fry of perch caught by himself, Mrs.  Sedgwick kept the girl's glasses filled with margaritas, and the beer glasses were never empty as we got a nice New York brewed Pale Ale for the 20 liter in-house kegerator system.

One thing which I cannot disclose too much information about is Sedg's uncle Lee. A known attraction of the area is his mysterious garage, and thats all I can say. We spent some time at Uncle Lee's house,  and he showed us his collection of kites and then took us outside and showed us how to make the most amazing bubbles. Words can't even describe the evening at Uncle Lee's, but it was definitely eccentric and unique. The only way to find out more is to experience it for yourself! 

Not a bad place to sit and watch the sunset