What I’m ABBA To Tell You


The sun rose this morning at 4:18am and will set tonight at 9:32pm.  We’re in Sweden, Stockholm to be exact.  Abba is BIG here still and I’m yet to see an Ikea. But I’ve only had one full day so I suppose there is still time.

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Gamla Stan is the oldest section of Stockholm

After a leisurely breakfast Joan and I met up with a walking tour of the main part of the city.  I like doing these on the first day at a new destination as it gives you a feel for what’s important, you’re left with a list of places you want to return to, and you get a good dose of history and inside information you would not have otherwise gotten.  Our guide for this tour was pretty good.  I especially liked that his voice projected so that I could hear him and his humor was actually funny.  They can sometimes be really cheesy when they crack a joke.

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The Swedish Royal Opera House (right)

The tour took about two hours then we took a ferry back to the old part of the city which is on an island.  But that’s not unusual here as Stockholm is made up of 57 islands . I enjoyed just wandering around the narrow streets and looking at the amazing old architeccture. It’s high summer and that means every European is on holiday.  I’m starting to think that perhaps most of them chose Sweden this year.  There are a LOT of people about.  It makes for good people watching, but it’s not quite as zen-like as it would be in, say, January when the day is only 71 minutes long.

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Even with all the people you can still find quite corners.

We had a great lunch at the Hairy Pig Deli.  A silly name for a place that served the best potato salad and grill provolone I’ve had in a while.  Oh, and the panacotta was simply sublime.

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Lunch at the Hairy Pig Deli

Tomorrow, Thor and Odin willing, I will indulge my interest in Viking history and mythology.

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Kobenhavn


Copenhagen.  I am finally entering the land of the Vikings and the old gods. Thor was with us today as we set out, in a rare bout of sunshine to explore this old city.

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Nyhavn district is postcard perfect in the sunshine 

As I spent the early morning pouring over maps and guidebooks I was a little daunted.  On paper the city seems large, sprawling, and complicated. Both Joan and I commented on how compact the city actually is.

Our first order of business was to visit the Central Station where Joan needed to pickup a tourist discount card she purchased online. Thus armed with that card and my three-day transportation pass we set out on the Metro…in the total opposite direction we wanted to go.

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Flowers of Christiania 

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But that didn’t phase us, it barely slowed us down. We were bound to find Christiania, a section of Copenhagen that declared itself a separate country in the early 70s.  Its a quite large decommissioned military complex where people my age have checked out and turned on.  They just forgot to check back in. It was an odd place to start a tour of Copenhagen I suppose, but that’s how we roll.

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Northern exposure

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The rest of the day we spent basically stumbling upon the list of sights that I had made. It’s good that we did as tomorrow is supposed to be really rainy and we might be relegated to indoor tourism. For Joan that means museums and for me it means shopping. That’s not normally my thing, but I didn’t pack well for the cool and wet weather.

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A Danish classic

On the way to see a famous statue of The Little Mermaid, we found ourselves smack in the middle of the changing of the guard ceremony at the royal palace. What luck, eh?

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I love your purse, but I think the hat is too big for your face

 

We’re now back in our hotel rooms awaiting the arrival of Joan’s neice who is joining us from Berlin for a couple of days. Her flight is a little late and my feet could not be happier to get the extra rest.

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Now these guys know a thing or two about bicycle riding

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A Mercedes hearse.  Now that’s going in style

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I know it’s sophomoric but I couldn’t help myself 

My Day in Rotterdam


Well, I awoke this morning feeling revived and refreshed and also with a modicum of courage.  Although this is my last day in Amsterdam, since I’ve been here before, no need really to visit a lot of sites.  So, on a whim, I decided to take the train to Rotterdam, Holland’s second largest city.

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The Markthal, Rotterdam

While they are only about 30 miles apart, Amsterdam and Rotterdam could not be more different.  Where Amsterdam is like a living and breathing museum, Rotterdam is new, shiny, and glitzy.  Frankly, it’s not totally for me, but I could certainly understand someone who was interested in ultra modern architecture being drawn here.

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A train station entrance in Rotterdam

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Markthal interior

Markthal interior ceiling

The highlight for me was the Markthal pictured above.  It is an indoor food market with absolutely stunning design. The two ends are enclosed in glass and the surrounding shell has over 100 housing units in it.  The inside ceiling is painted in a wonderful food motif and is really eye catching.

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Watching the world go by in Rotterdam

But in all honesty what I really enjoyed was figuring out the transportation on a combination of trams and trains directly to Rotterdam Centraal.  I did it without a hitch and I always get a kick out of that.  The countryside is really pretty here and I felt rather “worldly” as we stopped at Den Haag (The Hague) station.

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Say cheese

I’m back in Amsterdam now with only a minor screw up on the way back.  Seems I got off at Amsterdam Slotenndyjk rather than Amsterdam Centraal.  I hear it happens to everyone. No worries, just wait for the next train…it was only about 4 minutes but it marred my otherwise perfect train performance today.

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Hanging out in Rotterdam

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Rotterdam Centraal Station

Back in Amsterdam


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This would be an awesome jigsaw puzzle 

I discovered Amsterdam during my around-world-trip six years ago and vowed then that I would return.  For me it has it all:  It’s visually stunning, very walkable, has a diverse population, English is spoken universally, and it’s always full of surprises.

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So when Joan and I decided to go on a Scandinavian Odyssey, and Amsterdam turned out to be a viable jumping off point, it was a no-brainer for me.  I’ll meet Joan in Copenhagen tomorrow afternoon but until then Amsterdam is all mine.

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It’s not unusual for the buildings to appear all akimbo.  They are.

I arrived at Schirpol Airport about 9:00 in the morning and the Dutch, being as efficient as they are was through immigration and customs within minutes. I then faced the choice of a 30 Euro cab ride or a 5 Euro train.  I opted for the latter. It took a while to figure out the ticket, but I eventually mastered that. After a while the ticket kiosk and I became quite intimate.

The train was quick, clean, and comfortable, but upon arriving at Amsterdam Centraal station I was a little too tired, jet lagged, and overwhelmed to figure out how to get the tram to my hotel so I chose to just walk the mile with Google Maps and GPS planted squarely in my face.

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A nice way to see Amsterdam 

I spent the rest of the day simply walking around and getting reacquainted with the city. I was pretty amazed that with only a short nap in the afternoon I was able to wander around until well after a late dinner.  I’m thinking that today I might once again brave Centraal Station and take a little trip to Rotterdam.  It’s only about 40 minutes away if you get on the right train.  But considerably longer if you don’t. Oh well, if I end up in Paris, c’est la vie. I could think of worse things.

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The view from my hotel room. 

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A Test from Hollyweed


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This is a test run.  From the conception of “A Radical Sabbatical I have blogged using an old Microsoft Surface.  While it has served me well, it is rather heavy to carry so on my next trip I’ve decided, depending on how this post goes to leave the workhorse at home and to try posting using only a small tablet with a portable keyboard.

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As you can see I’m conducting this little scientific experiment from Hollyweed but on Tuesday I am leaving for points in Scandinavia.  Specifically I will be visiting Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Tallinn (Estonia). This will be my first trip abroad where I will be leaving from LEX vs. LAX.

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Maybe it is just the learning curve but this posting already seems more difficult to create.  While the text portion of the blogging process is quite straightforward, getting photos from the camera to an online device, cropping, resizing, uploaded to WordPress, and finally inserted into a blog entry is a little more complicated. This is further complicated by the fact that my Android tablet does not have a standard USB port so all this must be done wirelessly. Furthermore, Windows has much better functionality when it comes to manipulating files.

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But I am committed to trying to make it work. If this trip’s blogging experience goes badly, maybe there will be a new Surface in my future!

For those of follow me regularly please let me know in the comments if you notice anything materially different.

See you next in Amsterdam.

 

 

The Road to Ruin


 

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The ball court at Nim Li Punit.

We took a chance to get out of Dodge yesterday. So with Cameron, our hired driver, we set out for the Mayan ruins of Nam Li Punit nearly a couple of hours south of Placencia. While I have seen more impressive Mayan ruins, I’ve never experienced one in complete solitude.  We were the only visitors and it’s amazing how that can change the experience.

 

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Ray’s ashes at Nim Li Punit

The ruins were in a lush tropical setting and it was here that I once again left a little piece of Ray behind in this peaceful setting.

 

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Clarity of offer.

After the ruins we headed straight to Coleman’s Café for the famous buffet.  As you can see, they are quite specific about what the don’t have.  But it’s what they do have that’s important.  Real home cooked Belizean food in a real homey environment.  It was really good and the homemade ice cream is to die for.

 

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Lunch at Coleman’s

But perhaps the most ruinous part of the day was the time we spent at Yoli’s along about 6pm…and onward. I loved the hippie vibe there and it truly felt like you’d escaped the real world for an alternate universe.

 

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Lori, Brian, and Ruben at Yoli’s

 

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Ruben and Yoli

 

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I saw this gorgeous lotus blossom that the Spice Farm near Nim Li Punit

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Leaf cutter ants at Nim Li Punit provide a surprising amount of entertainment.

 

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Nim Li Punit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placencia, Belize


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The quaint little town of Placencia, Belize

It’s not that far, only a few hundred miles south of Cancun, but it feels very remote.  Placencia, Belize sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico about 60 miles south of the capital of Belize City. The weather is tropical, US dollars are accepted everywhere, English is universally spoken, and the vibe is most definitely laid back.

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There were just four passengers on the flight from Belize City to Placencia.  I sat directly behind the pilot.

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The plane on the last leg of our flight.

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The Placencia airport.  The whole airport.

Getting here was uneventful except the last leg of our flight…Belize City to Placencia.  It was on a single propeller plane with just four passengers. Amanda and I sat directly behind the pilot and copilot, and we had a view through the windshield.  That was particularly interesting when we came in for our landing.

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Placencia neighborhood

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The main drag through Placencia.  Well, the only drag.

I’m here with eight other people to celebrate a birthday.  So whatever the locale lacks in sights, architecture, and art it is made up by the charm of the little town, the scenery, and lots of good companionship.

Amanda and I have a pretty cool house right on the beach and we’re here for a week with not a lot to do. So it should be pretty laid back and relaxing.

 

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Good morning Belize.  The view from our condo is pretty awesome!