Around Katarina Church in Stockholm

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

While I like seeing the main sights of any city I visit, I also enjoy walking around aimlessly and seeing what I discover.  Katarina Church (Katarina Kyrka) in Stockholm (Södermalm) was one of those discoveries.  Perhaps if I had done my research ahead of time, the church and its neighborhood would have ended on a ‘must-see’ list.  But it was a lot neater to run into this neighborhood by sheer luck and wanderlust!

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Church as seen from Gamla Stan

Katarina Church

The church grounds were pretty in the fall colors and in the gray weather I experienced pretty much the entire weekend I was in Stockholm.Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

The church was undergoing renovations

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Cornelisparken – good views of Stockholm

I then walked off a side sidestreet on the opposite side of the square from where I had entered it, Mäster Mikaels gata, with quaint homes that ended with a park, Cornelisparken, that offered a great viewpoint that overlooked Gamla Stan and other parts of Stockholm.  I seemed to be on a roll discovering great spots with great views in Stockholm (another was from City Hall)!Mäster Mikaels gata, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7 Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7

Katarina kyrka, Catherine church, Stockholm, Sweden, fall, color, Sodermalm, travel, tourism, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, Gamla Stan, Cornelisparken

View towards Gamla Stan

This part of my longer walk was probably my favorite of the whole weekend and I think yielded some of my favorite photos from the trip!

 

Stockholm’s City Hall – Great Vantage Point

Stockholm, Sweden, City Hall, views, vistas, Gamla Stan, photo, Samsung Galaxy, S7, travel, tourism, Stadshuset

Before my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I took advantage of a cheap airfare to spend a long weekend in Stockholm. I had been there a while back on a day stop from a cruise with my family. It was summer time and it allowed us to get a flavor of this city by walking around Old Town, visiting the Vasa Museum, and enjoying a nice lunch. Of course, Stockholm was charming and I hoped for a return visit someday. And that materialized when a college friend found the special fare and asked if I’d be game for a slightly mad short trip there. Having not used vacation time in the year, I thought “why the heck not!”

The plan for the trip was to just go with the flow. I had already seen key sights so that was good with me. Serendipity can yield interesting experiences!

One place I discovered on this trip was Stockholm’s City Hall. My hotel was maybe 2.5 kms / 30 mins’ walk away and we were making our way from our hotel in Kungsholmen towards Old Town. We ran into the the City Hall and wondered what it was. It faces the water with great views of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Sodermalm across the water – excellent photo opp spot!

Here are some of the images of the building and the views from its unique spot in the city.  If you find yourself in Stockholm, go the extra distance outside of Gamla Stan to get to this spot!  (Click on the images to enlarge.)

2016 – A Year in Review

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, independence monument, plaza, travel, explore, Asia, photo, Samsung Galaxy

To say 2016 was a strange year is understating it.  It started right off the bat with a scary family health issue (which, mercifully, is much much better by now) that took us all quite by surprise.  The year also had other small ‘hiccups,’ which is just life on any given year.  Nevertheless, and as is often the case, God certainly brings good out of the bad, and provides other great things to keep us balanced (or, sane!).

I want to share some of those great things, at least the ones that related to travel, exploring, hiking, relaxing, or enjoying food/wine to wrap up this year.  While I did not get to write as much this year as I normally do, I certainly never stopped dreaming of travel or of sharing the experiences.  Here is to a great 2017 for all!

Elton, Sir Elton

A work trip in early January resulted in getting invited to a private concert with Sir Elton John.  I got to stand close to the stage and enjoyed his music and showmanship (and the complimentary drinks with two great co-workers)!  While the year started with Elton John’s music, I can say that the song of the year (in my head, anyway) is “One Night in Bangkok,” if nothing else because I heard it too many times in anticipation of a trip that happened much later in the year.

Elton John, concert, CES, music, icon, travel, Las Vegas, photo, red piano

Brunswick in coastal Georgia

A brief work trip in February took me to coastal Georgia, to the sleepy-ish town of Brunswick.  I took some time to drive around the old part of town and caught a great sunset as I hunted for a place to sit down and eat.  Not bad!Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

Oldest church in Atlanta

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta is the oldest church in Atlanta.  I got to work at the homeless shelter in the basement overnight a night in winter.  I loved the reflection of the church on the modern building across from it…

Shrine, Immaculate Conception, downtown, Atlanta, reflection, glass, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – or its reflection

Hiking in north Georgia

Spring brought many opportunities to go hiking around and north of Atlanta.  Whether with my regular hiking buddy, Phil; or with my friend Troy and his two oldest children, Rehm and Caitlyn; or with a group from church that included my friends Chris and Wendy, springtime was full of hiking.  Here are photos from my hikes around Vickery Creek, up Pine Mountain, up to the top of Stone Mountain, or to and back from the awesome Hike Inn in north Georgia!

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails

Vickery Creek, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around the Vickery Creek trails – the dam

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Trails around Pine Mountain

Hike Inn, sunrise, mountains, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

View of sunrise from the Hike Inn

Hike Inn, Georgia, mountains, hiking, trekking, Atlanta, photo

The group at the starting point to get to the Hike Inn

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

No kids were harmed in this photo on the rail line in Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Around Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, hiking, Georgia, waterfall, dam, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Again, no kids were harmed… really…

Colorado spring!

In June, I got to visit my friends Annette, Kent and Austin to celebrate two great events in their lives.  It also gave me the opportunity to tour the Stanley Hotel which inspired Stephen King, and to finally hike around the table mountain right west of Arvada.  Oh, and I got to see a few other friends that I had not seen in a few years!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park,  flower, Stephen King, Colorado, table mountain, explore, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The Stanley Hotel

hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy hiking, Colorado, table mountain, outdoors, nature, photo, Samsung Galaxy, flower

Celebrating with my Mom and sister

In July, my Mom, sister and I made a long weekend getaway to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.  We got to relax, laugh, and -of course- eat a lot of delicious food!

family, Ritz, Sarasota

With my Mom and sister!

Sarasota, sunset, purple, orange, palm tree, travel, rest

Great colors as the sun sets west of Sarasota

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Mmm!!!!

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Creme brulee

Wine in California

I was fortunate to be able to go to California for work which allowed me to visit ex-Atlanta residents Jenny, Jason, Phoebe and Zoe.  While the kids were in school, my hostess and I escaped for a wine tasting at Testarossa – great locale and great wine!  Among the best things to do in Cali – wine tasting!

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Entrance to the tasting room

Testarossa, California, winery, wine tasting, fun

Awesome setting for a winery!

Cheap fare to Stockholm

John, a college friend who knows how to find a good airfare, suggested a long weekend ‘jump’ to Stockholm.  A little bit mad, perhaps, but I could not say no to have another opportunity to explore this great city.  And then we drove away from the city to see what we’d run into.  Good stuff for another post!

Stamla Gan, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Great view of the heart of Stockholm

Sweden, countryside, cottage, yellow, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Sweden’s countryside

food, mussels, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore

A great dinner on the first night in Stockholm

red ivy, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, explore, tourism, Samsung Galaxy

Beautiful Stockholm!

My travel capstone in 2016 – Asia

Great stuff up to this point but my trip to Southeast Asia certainly took the cake – not just for the long distance to get there (37 hours!).  I got to explore and sample Bali, Singapore, Bangkok and the countryside near it, and amazing Cambodia.  Wish I had had two more weeks to include Laos and Vietnam – and/or just for more time in these places.  Leaving something unseen for a future trip hopefully and grateful for the opportunity to see what I saw!

Bali, Indonesia, Asia, Seminyak, pool, W Resort, W hotel, awesome, Samsung Galaxy S7

The view from my room included a great view of the pool area

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Cycling around the countryside outside of Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand, tuk tuk, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Tuk tuk adventures…

Bangkok, Thailand, temple, reclining Buddha, ilivetotravel, travel, adventure, explore

Standing Buddha with the reclining Buddha

Cambodia, Cambodge, sunset, lake, travel, explore, adventure, Samsung Galaxy

Sunset in Cambodia

Angkor Wat, temple, ilivetotravel, sunrise, ruins, explore, travel, Asia, Cambodia, Cambodge

Looking haggard after an early early wake-up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise

Ta Phrom, Cambodia, Cambodge, Angkor Wat, temple, ruins, banyan tree, travel, explore, adventure

Ta Phrom and its banyan trees!

Singapore, ilivetotravel, Marina Bay Sands, infinity pool, up high, travel, explore

Atop the Marina Bay Sands! (Thanks Phil I. for the photo!)

 Have a happy and blessed 2017, everyone!!!

The “First Cousins” Capitals: Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm

Akershus, Oslo, Norway, fortress, church, sunset, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

It has been an interesting exercise to try to think of the Scandinavian countries and come up with a good and succinct outline of what makes them different from each other without requiring a degree in history, architecture, and other similar fields.  So I decided to not be that ambitious and limit this to taking a look at the Scandinavian “first cousins” capitals – Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen – and see what I came up with…

All of these first cousins felt very manageable for a first time visitor.  There was nothing daunting or complex about getting around which made it easy for me to walk aimlessly to see what I would discover.  Everyone spoke English which certainly facilitated the visit though I am OK attempting to communicate in any number of languages I can dabble in.   I visited them all more or less around May or June making my comparison even in terms of weather.  Clearly the time of the year I visited made them all come across as “alive” since everyone by then had finished thawing off from their winter “slump”.  Everyone was out and about enjoying the weather – and their cities.

Oslo

In Norway, they were actually having a warm spell in early May (I carried a coat through Europe because I was supposed to need it when I got to Norway; it was hotter than anywhere in Europe at the time!).  Everyone was out at the parks and streets just hanging out.  The outdoor cafes were all packed, everyone enjoying a beer or four.  I partook even if I was a little horrified at the cost of everything.

Akershus, Oslo, Norway, fortress, church, sunset, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking towards Akershus Fortress at sunset

My favorite meal was a bucketful of fresh shrimp and beer sitting at a water-side restaurant (maybe by the Herbern marina) right around Aker Brygge, a modern shopping, entertainment, and office district near the Nobel Peace Center.  Of course, my favorite activity overall was taking a brief boat ride down Oslofjord but that is a different story!

It was neat to walk right by boats selling their catch to local restaurant buyers right across from City Hall.

Olso, Norway, fisherman, boat

Buying seafood right from the boat!

Oslo probably felt the smaller of the three cousins (I actually have not looked up population statistics) and the more relaxed, perhaps because of its size, perhaps because people just wanted to enjoy the newly found warmth by chilling (!) outdoors.  I loved scenes like the Akershus Fortress and the massive ski jump off in the distance!

Stockholm

As a capital city, Stockholm didn’t have a presence that screamed “big city”.  And I liked that.  It sits comfortably by the water built on and surrounded by islands.  It is quite easy to move about even if unfamiliar with it – its vast waterfront makes it hard to get lost.  I have previously written about this city by the water so I will not elaborate here.

We headed first to the area where the Royal Palace sits, “Stadsholm”, an island itself.  This is all part of old town or Gamla Stan.  Gamla Stan is full of charming architecture and beautiful streets.  From there, one can easily cross to a small island where Parliament sits (Riksdag) and exit it on the other side to enter the pedestrian shopping street (Drottninggatan) and move on to parks and other areas of town.  Almost across the water from the Royal Palace, of course, on another island, one finds the Vasa Museum (a must-see in Stockholm).

Gamla Stan, old town, Stockholm. Sweden. architecture, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Charming architecture in Gamla Stan

Riksdag, Parliament, Stockholm. Sweden. architecture, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Riksdag (Parliament)

Stockholm, and the people, there felt very relaxed, none more so than the students celebrating being done with school atop a party bus, one of the city scenes I shared in another post.  I could see myself lounging a few days, weeks, or more in this capital.  Of course, likely not during winter.

Copenhagen

During my visit to Copenhagen (three days), we toured around all the main areas of town you are always told to see and visit.  These included palaces, museums, the maverick community of Freetown Christiania, and other key sights.  As with many cities, my favorite part of Copenhagen was exploring the smaller side streets and finding that little jewel of a restaurant (as happened to us, with Restaurant and Café Nytorv which sits at about 150 years old).

We also happened upon the Copehagen Carnival (in June!) which made the main pedestrian street, Strøget, a lively corridor.  It may have lacked the wildness of Rio’s Carnival or Nawlins’ Mardi Gras but I certainly give it an “A” for enthusiasm and effort!Carnival, Copenhagen, Denmark, parade, colorful, fun, Canon EOS Rebel

The Danish capital definitely felt the more developed of the “first cousin capitals”, the more urbanized, the more identifiable as a capital.  While it sits on the water’s edge like the other two, it lacked the splendid fjords of Oslo or the charm of the many islands in and around Stockholm.  Granted it may have more diversity of older and modern architecture than but it often was not impressive.  For example, the buildings composing the royal palace/residence at Amalienborg were not imposing, nor terribly interesting from the outside, nor graced with gardens or green spaces (Rosenborg Castle fares much better.)

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, royalty, architecture

Amalienborg Palace

While it was interesting to visit Copenhagen and walk its old streets, I hate to say, it did not wow me.  I didn’t feel an urge, say, to live there for 6 months, nor linger longer (though that may be precisely what I should do to “get” Copenhagen?).

Have you visited these first cousins?  Which one did you like best/least?  What influences your answer?

City Life – Street Scenes of Stockholm

cafe, Stockholm, Sweden, summer, street scene, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I wrote about Stockholm being a great city to visit in summer time (as probably any part of Sweden!).  As I said then, it is likely a charming city well-worth visiting any time of the year.  But summertime not only offers warmth and longer daylight hours.  It offers better opportunities to observe life happen as I hope the photos in this post show.

Enjoy and let me know which is your favorite scene!

Stockholm: A City One with the Water

Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

It is a cold day at home and, somehow, instead of going for warm, I look at pictures of my cruise in the Baltic.  But, in my defense, it was June there.  Still not tropical weather but my eyes and mind wandered to my pictures of my stop in Stockholm, Sweden.  And what I take away is what a great city it is to enjoy in summer time.  I am sure it’s a great town any time of the year (I said having spent 3 weeks in Helsinki, Finland in the dead of winter many moons ago…).  But in the summer the city is bright and alive.

I guess what I really liked about Stockholm compared to other cities by the water is that the transition from water to land felt more smooth.  It did not feel abrupt with large man-made banks holding in a river (think London) nor city walls holding the sea back (think San Juan or Dubrovnik) nor  being in the water proper (think Venice) nor with development keeping the city from the water (think Miami).  I liked that the sea and city were seamlessly one.  Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Stockholm, Sweden, architecture, sea, blue sky, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The islands around Stockholm

I also liked the many islands right by the city.  I felt I could just skip and hop around endlessly.

Cruise, Stockholm, Sweden, islands, sea, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Cruise ship approaching Stockholm passing through many islands

house, Stockholm, Sweden, islands, sea, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

House on an island around Stockholm – nice spot!

History of that sea – the Vasa Museum

This close relationship with the sea around it is not limited to the landscape or topography.  Stockholm and Sweden’s history is tightly related to the sea around it.  No better place to see this come alive than the amazing Vasa Museum, itself on an island (see what I mean?).  Shaped itself like a modern steel vessel, this well-designed set of exhibits walk you through maritime history and 17th century Sweden, with a great collection of items, all well-labeled.  The Vasa was a ship found in 1960 in the waters around Stockholm which had sunk on its maiden voyage back in 1628 (what is it with ships sinking on the maiden voyage?  think Titanic… I think I will avoid any ship’s maiden voyage just in case…)  The entire ship is not the original (clearly after over 3 centuries over water, this was not to be).  However, they have done a great job so that it is obvious which pieces of the ship you see are part of the reconstruction/reparations and which are original.  The museum also includes actual ships moored next to it.

Vasa, Stockholm, Museum, ship, wreckage, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel Vasa, Stockholm, Museum, ship, wreckage, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel Vasa, Stockholm, Museum, ship, wreckage, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

An Imperfect Baltic Cruise Was Perfect for the Family…

Tallinn, Estonia, Baltic, cruise, visit, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, skyline

A couple of years ago, I embarked on a family trip with my mother and stepdad, my sister with her husband and teenaged kids, and my aunt and uncle.  The reasons for the trip were many but we more than anything wanted a grand trip all together to give my niece and nephew a great memory of their first trip to Europe and for the rest of us to get some R&R.  We chose a cruise as it facilitated a group of 9 people traveling together since the cruise ship offers many options for at-sea days and there is no moving from place to place every few days carrying or rolling luggage around, something the older ones in the group would not have been able to easily do.  We have done cruises before together and knew the cruise dynamic works well for us giving everyone things to do and space when needed.  Much as I may have enjoyed driving around one or more European countries, it would not have made sense with a group like this one.

We decided on a Baltic route as it was new to most of us and because if we were ever to do it, this time of the year was perfect.  I personally had a goal of getting to sample a few of the countries in the region to know where to focus future trips.  The destinations involved were Copenhagen, Tallinn, Warnemunde (but really, Berlin was the target), St. Petersburg, and Stockholm.  I had been to none of these cities though I have been to Germany a few times.  I will write separately about my impressions about these places but St. Petersburg, in particular, was top of my list of places I have not seen in Europe.

Copenhagen is where the cruise departed from so we planned to spend a couple of days there before and after the trip.  We wanted to arrive early in case there were issues with the flight over – so we would have a couple of days of “cushion” especially given the size of the group.

Nyhavn harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark

The cruise line (Costa) was supposed to be very decent and we got cabins with blocked views (by the lifeboats) which were cheaper -obviously- than the ones with a view.  But we chose them as it allowed us to get some sunlight in the room for the little time we spent there and not feel like we were in a box.  That was a good choice.  My cabin was even better as it faced the space between two lifeboats so we could actually look out!  The ship was no different in design and options as past cruise ships I have been in which was good and bad.  Good because I had liked them but bad because there was nothing new to discover.  It may have lacked a little in activities on at-sea days which was surprising.

The biggest shock of this cruise vs. all the other ones we had been on was the food.  My past experiences have been that I look at the dinner menu and I want EVERYTHING on the menu.  This time, I generally struggled to find a main entree that I REALLY wanted .  I was surprised at that (others in the group felt the same way).  I cannot quite put my finger on what was off with the menu but it proved true every night.  However, the pasta served as first dish was outstanding every night and that was the most enjoyable part of my nightly dinner.  Desserts were generally OK except that the first night’s creme brulee was almost egg soup.  After hours or in between meals, the choices were extremely limited (mostly to pizza) and the ice cream machine was off!!! (Contrary to past cruise experiences.)  So overall, the dining experience was not up to snuff for me.  On the bright side, I only gained one pound!

The onboarding and disembarkation processes were very efficiently run though perhaps that assisted by the fact that there were 2 embarkation ports which meant the load was split.  However, organization of the cruise tours was equally efficiently run so perhaps this is a strength for this line.

Tallinn, Estonia, Baltic, cruise, visit, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, skyline

Tallinn – a city we all found charming

The drawback for me of taking a cruise is the limited time at port.  I wish, for example, the visit to St. Petersburg has been split over two days as my Mom experienced on a past cruise there.  Seeing these towns in two days even is not enough but I sure wish we could have spent one overnight in any of these towns.  Given the limited time, we left the boat as early as we could which meant we had an early wake-up time every day.  We had 3 days in a row visiting ports so by the 3rd day we were fairly exhausted as we also did a lot of walking in the cities visited.  However, I do not regret it as there is no way I would have missed seeing as much as I could but so much for the “rest” part of R&R!

So even if it was not the perfect cruise experience, I can tell you that the memories still live on. Sadly, the rhythm of life moves on and the health of one of the group does not allow this type of long trip anymore.  Believe me when I say I would gladly suffer a poor creme brulee (and more) for another opportunity to be with this group doing something like this…  It sure puts it all in perspective…

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