Pictures from London

Susanna and I are enjoying our last minutes in London at the SAS Lounge in Heathrow Airport (it is a nice benefit of being a Star Alliance Gold member – I can use the lounges on international flights).  Next stop is Ottawa on Air Canada.

The last full day in London was a blast.  We went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in the morning.  It was well worth the time spent there – lots of fun.  Susanna didn’t make the scream tunnel (too scary I think), but her mom, Charlotte, and I went through.  I thought it was funny (not too scary), but the girls in the line behind me were terrified (they were holding on to my coat for dear life the whole walk – and I didn’t even know them).

We had lunch at a hamburger place nearby, and then off to shopping (okay, not the whole day was fun),  We spent way too long at Primark shopping for clothes.  Dan got bored and went for a drink.  I eventually wandered outside and sat on the street to watch people walk by.

We returned home in the early afternoon.  Susanna and I went town to the hotel spa.  It was a little disappointing.  The steam room was nice,  but the hot tub wasn’t so hot (more of a warm tub).  That night we went to Cafe Rouge for Dan’s birthday dinner (after drinks, games and gifts in the hotel room).

This morning we were up early and took the underground to the airport.  I recommend getting an oyster card to get around if you go to London.  It is a prepaid card – you are charged the lowest rate for each trip you do.  No stressing about paper tickets.

As promised, pictures from the trip:

Centaur at the British Museum (this is for Will and Ben)
Ben's Cookies (Kingston High Street Station) - we never went it, but thought the name was worth a picture
View from our walk around Notting Hill
The required photo of Susanna in a phone booth.
And of course... Rebecka in a phone booth

Heading home

We are heading home today. We just checked out of the hotel and are getting a coffee on the way to the airport. We had a great trip, lots of fun. I’ll write more about it when I get home. But for now I’ll upload some of the pictures from the visit to Madame Tussauds Museum. I’ll fix the pictures if I can get Wifi in the airport.

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Susanna at Madame Tussauds

 

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Me hanging out with a couple of friends from work (ok, not really)

 

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Rebecka attacked by the hulk

 

London (day 3)

We are starting today off a little slower than yesterday. I was up at 7:30 and went up the street for a coffee and muffin (and free Internet). Susanna sleept in – so we passed on the family breakfast in the hotel.

After breakfast we all met up at the cafe and then headed our own ways. The girls (Susanna, her mom, sister and cousin) headed to Piccadilly Circus for shopping.

Susanna’s dad, Dan, and I headed out to visit the museums. The first stop was the British Museum. There we saw the Rosetta stone and other artifacts of ancient Egyptian civilization. We also visited the Greek and European exhibits. The museum
Was followed by a beer and snack at a local pub.

We took the underground to the Imperial War Museum and spent the afternoon there. It was a perfect sized museum. Not too big. The British Museum is way too big to take in at once. It was a good assortment of items from the military, plus a very sobering section on the Holocaust.

After that another bite to eat and a beer at a different pub.

Now back to the room for a bit and then out to a show this evening. Pictures to follow later.

Sunday Breakfast in London

I had a nice coffee with Rebecka and Karolina this morning.  We met at the Caffé Nero pretty early (8AM).  The whole family is meeting at 9:30 to eat breakfast in the hotel.  I wanted to get up early enough to get on the proper time zone.  Karolina suggested doing an Internet free vacation.  I’m not sure I want to do that, but I’ll cut back on checking the Internet.

Rebecka asked about my job.  She asked how I felt working on something that was designed to kill people.  I said that was a good question – difficult to answer.  I have thought a lot about that, though not as much recently as I probably should.  I do accept what I do, and think it is important.  Though I really hope what I work on is never really used.  I hope for peace, but am not a pacifist.   My quick answer is that I think of it like a police officer carrying a gun.  He wants to make sure it works, and that he can shoot well.  But I’m sure most of them don’t ever want to use one for real.   Maybe that is just a superficial answer to a difficult question.

We also talked about blogging.  I think I write to give myself a record of what I do.  It is a journal for me.  I used to write  a private journal.  I can go back and find books with entries from random times in my life.  I was never consistent with my writing.  I am much more consistent with writing for my blog.  Maybe it is the public nature that make me more willing to write.  Though I mostly write it for myself – not for my two readers (thanks for reading Mom and Susanna).

London (Day 1)

London.  We made it.  Our journey took us on Air Canada from Boston to Toronto then to London.  It is nice to fly a non-US airline once in a while.  The accommodations on the aircraft were much nicer than the normal United aircraft – individual entertainment centers.

The flight across the pond was an overnight flight.  The trick is to try to get as much sleep as possible.  In the past, I had tried the Tylenol PM route.  It knocks me out, but I feel pretty groggy the entire next day.  This time I tried melatonin.    Susanna slept most of the flight with the melatonin.  I slept for the first 4 hours.  Not as long as with the Tylenol, but better than nothing.

We arrived in early afternoon.  We couldn’t check into the hotel until Susanna’s parents arrived – so we dropped off the bags and walked around Kensington High Street.  We found a nice Italian place for lunch – though apparently it is a chain restaurant.

After Susanna’s family arrived (Dan, Charlotte, sister Rebecka, and cousin Karolina) we checked in, unpacked and headed out to a nice dinner at another local Italian restaurant.  Since we had turned right on Kensington High Street today for lunch, we turned left and found the first place to eat.  We enjoyed a nice dinner and good conversation.  We did end the night discussing the upcoming election in the states, which was a decidedly unintelligent conversation.  Or more correctly, a conversation about the unintelligent.

Internet is a pain here.  No free internet in the hotel. I’m too cheap to pay for internet, so I’ll post this tomorrow from a free Wi-Fi hotspot at a café up the road.  I’m also pretty tired tonight from the lack of sleep last night – so if this blog makes no sense, that is my excuse (plus I never proofread anything anyway – it is just too boring to try and get it right).

Tomorrow’s plans are (though I’m pretty sure they have changed a bit) – in order:

Frukost
Kyrkbesök
Lunch
Hop on Hop off+buss
Afternoon Tea
Ev Spa
Kvällsmat

Of course the agenda is in Swedish (or it seems more like Swenglish).  Frukost is breakfast (food is important).  Lunch is lunch (I needed special help from Susanna with that one).  Kvällsmat is dinner.  Which covers the important events of the day.  I’m pretty sure “Afternoon Tea” is English and the second one has something to do with a church.

I’m meeting Rebecka before frukost tomorrow to go grab coffee and free internet.  Actually, I think it should be free “Internet” not “internet.”  Not sure Susanna will be up in time to get coffee.  Of course I’ll either amend this in the morning (or just add a note if she makes it).

Summer Trip (very late post) – Part 1

I’ve been slow posting on this blog… there is lots to do outside and around the house in the summer.  Finally it is hot enough this weekend, that writing seems like a good thing to do.

The big family trip this summer was a road trip to West Virginia. The trip started in the evening of the 24th.  We started with a short drive to New Jersey for a night sleep (leaving after the boys arrived here for their vacation period).  The next morning, we drove around a bit to find breakfast (and new headphones for Will) and then drove to Washington DC.  We stayed at the same hotel we stayed at last year (Homewood Suites in Alexandria VA).

Susanna and Benjamin Walking in DC
Susanna and Benjamin Walking in DC

We took it easy on Saturday, with dinner at the Olive Garden (it was my birthday dinner).  The next day we decided to head into Washington to visit the Holocaust Museum.  We got distracted.

When we arrived at the Mall, the boys wanted to walk to the Washington Monument.  It was right there, so why not.  When we got up to the monument, one of the other tourists gave us 4 tickets for the 10:30 am tour… normally you need to get down there very early to get tickets.  What good luck.  So we went to the top.  The boys thought the ride up was pretty cool, but got bored after 5 minutes at the top.  Then back down and to the Holocaust Museum.

We should have done lunch instead.  It was getting close to lunch time.  Will was getting hungry.  He couldn’t stand still at all while we were in the lobby of the museum.  We tried to walk through the children’s exhibit, but Will couldn’t stop running.  He got very upset when I took him outside.  He had a screaming meltdown on the way out.  Not the best day.  In hindsight we should have done lunch first, he would have been much happier on a full stomach.  But all he wanted to do was go back to the hotel and swim.

After lunch we took the metro back to the car and drove back to the hotel, spent the afternoon swimming and ordered pizza for dinner (after Will calmed down – he was very upset from the events of the morning).

Will sitting on the decoration at the mall

A Friday night on the Connecticut River

Campsite

The boys had been talking about this trip all week.  I had done some research on where to do river camping here in Connecticut and found that the state has several campgrounds that are accessible only by canoe or kayak.  Several weeks ago I checked the DEP website, got the address needed, and then wrote to them requesting a camping permit (of course enclosing the needed $15 to cover the permit).  A week later I had a permit waiting in the mail for Ceders Camp Area in Selden Neck State Park.

Papa walking in the woods at Selden Neck State Park

I called my dad and asked if he wanted to go camping with the boys this weekend.  He was actually in DC this past week, so the trip up wasn’t too far out of his way.   I picked him up on Friday afternoon, and we quickly packed up the car before the boys came home from school.

We tied the canoe to the roof and drove to the Hadlyme Ferry.  Of course I wasn’t sure how often the ferry ran, so we drove all the way around.  Next time I’ll just take the Ferry across.  $3 for the car and it runs about every 15 minutes (we took it home).  We unloaded in the parking lot next to the ferry and loaded up the canoe.  It was nearly 5pm by the time we were on the river.

We paddled down the river for maybe 20 or 30 minutes and arrived at our campsite (I had to pick a site near the put-in – the boys don’t get out of school until 3pm and with a 9am transition to their mother’s house on Sunday morning, a Saturday night camping trip was out of the question).

We had a great night camping.  Both Will and Ben took some time when we got there to go swimming in the cold water, then set up their tents (with help).  We found firewood (we had to hike a bit to get it), made a fire, and cooked dinner.  Ben was pretty tired; he had stayed up until almost 10pm the night before.  After dinner, as we were getting the s’mores ready, Ben decided to go lay down in his tent.  I asked him, “are you going to bed?” He replied, “No, I’m just taking a nap.”  I explained that if you take a nap at night and wake up the next morning, then it counts as going to bed.  But either way, I let him take his nap.  He slept until the morning.

Will followed not too long after that.  The boys had insisted in each sleeping in their own tents.  I didn’t really want to buy enough tents for them to each sleep in their own tent, but I pulled out an old tent I had for my dad and I to share, and let the boys sleep in their own tents.  I was sure they would get afraid at night and not want to sleep alone.  I was wrong.  Not a sound was heard from either of them until the next morning.

Will playing in his tent

I was up early – it get’s light around 5am this time of year, and dad snores.  I got the fire going again and walked around a bit.  Will was the next one up, followed by my dad and Ben.

That morning both boys wanted to try the rope swing into the river.  I told them the water was cold, but they could use the rope swing.  They got in their swim trunks, put life jackets on and headed over the the rope swing.  Will got Ben to agree to try the swing if he did it first.  In Will went.  Into the very cold water.  Next it was Ben’s turn.  In he went.  The look on his face was perfect.  He was very surprised by the cold water.  I’m pretty sure if he could have found a way to walk on top of the water he would have.

Ben at Breakfast

The boys then decided to change into their dry pajamas (which they wore the rest of the trip).  We finished breakfast.  I stayed in camp while my dad took the boys exploring our part of the island.

When everyone was back (and the kids getting a little bored), we broke camp and decided to canoe around the island.  I had talked to a pair of rowers that were passing by earlier – they told me it was a nice 3.5km loop around the island.

It wound up being a pretty long canoe trip around the island.  Not too long, but getting close to too long.  We stopped to check out the other campsites on the island (the boys chose Hogback Camp Area for the next trip – scheduled for early June).  The wind was a bit strong when we rounded the island and left Selden Creek and entered the Connecticut River.  The wind and wakes from the passing boats on the Connecticut River made the passage back up the river a bit slow going.  But the boys were as patient as could be expected.

A stop on the way back

Overall it was a great first camping trip for the boys.  They are excited to go again.  It was a great starter trip for the year to highlight missing gear, planning etc.  We made the trip in a 17′ Mohawk canoe, brought 3 tents (2 small Eureka backpacking tents for the boys, and one large cheap 4 person dome tent for my dad and I – I”m not sure how well that would have fared if it rained).  I could definitely use another dry bag before the next trip and a couple more duffel bags to store gear (it is easier if all the gear is in bags to stow in the canoe).  I also need more camp chairs (we only had one, but there were picnic tables at the site).  We packed in all of our water, and went through nearly 2 1/2 gallons of clean water that night – if it were for a longer trip I would have to get a new water filter.  I also forgot how much colder it can be on the river, and next time should pack another layer or two for the boys. I also need a coffee press – no coffee is no fun.   I brought backpacking pads to sleep on.  But I’m getting old, and weight isn’t as much of a problem on a canoe, so I think I’ll get a more comfortable sleeping pad for the next trip.  Maybe trade some weight off with tents and pick up a smaller/lighter third tent.  The propane stove is also on it’s last leg.  I have a gas backpacking stove, but I do like the convenience of the big double burner propane stove when weight isn’t as big of an issue.

A happy Ben

How to order Pizza in Stockholm (part 1)

Names are changed to protect the innocent…..

SCENE 1
[AT A SMALL PIZZA SHOP IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF STOCKHOLM NEAR CLOSING TIME]

S: WHAT KIND OF PIZZA DO YOU WANT?
C: WHATEVER YOU WANT.
S: ARE YOU SURE, HOW ABOUT SHRIMP AND FETA CHEESE
C: SOUNDS GOOD
S: WHAT DO YOU WANT?
C: THAT SOUNDS GOOD.

[S SPEAKS TO CASHIER IN SWEDISH. GROUP STANDS AROUND FOR A FEW MINUTES]

S: MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE ONLY ORDERED ONE PIZZA
C: (SURPRISED) HOW MANY DID YOU ORDER?
S: (JUST AS SURPRISED) TWO, OF COURSE. HOW MANY DID YOU THINK I ORDERED?
C: UH, ONE?