June 2014

Tj woke me and I’d showered by 8:50am. He ate a bit of fruit while I got ready, I didn’t eat anything.

We walked through the right-off-the-ship shopping area and I saw a sweater perfect (I hope) for Sara Lu. I didn’t want to get anything right away, so we kept on. There was a small hot air balloon nearby for tourists to ride…I really want to one day.

Our first stop was a large sculpture erected in memory of many who drowned crossing on a ferry. Tj found a geocache there. Then we went into the city. There were so many beautiful and cute old buildings there…I took a ton of pictures. We walked and walked…lots of cobblestones, very little concrete. It was cold, then nice, rainy, then sunny, then rainy and sunny. It was a good day. We ran into some cruise critic friends and chatted a minute. Then we went into a pastry shop and I picked out a horseshoe shaped almond-flavored cookie. Tj found another geocache in the old city. We ate at Old Hansa, a very kitschy-touristy shop. They had good mushroom soup, various sausages, a nutty bread with herb cheese, and at the end rose pudding with rose petals on top. The whole restaurant was lit by candles. The bathroom was a little strange, too. The toilet was built into a stone bench with a curtain that allowed only my knees to be seen. Strange. Fortunately it was a one-person-at-a-time room with a locking door. So why would I want the curtain? The sink was a big brass pitcher you had to dip down to pour (it constantly refilled), and the soap was liquid in a little brass bowl you had to dip your fingers in. Strange.

Before lunch we went through the tourist market area and I got a little toy for Jack and a wooden butter knife for me. At another store I found tons of little ceramic houses. The girl said they were replicas of houses in the old city. I bought several for Kelly, Jennifer, Amy and myself. At another place I bought myself some hand knit winter socks.

On our way out we went towards the new town and Tj got another geocache. Then we headed back to the ship and I (not without sweating it a bit) found that sweater I’d found for Sara Lu. As I was trying it on Tj said I should get one for myself. I never even considered it, but I liked it more and more, and so I did! :-) Now I just need to find something for Jo and Mom. And Max. I should have bought him some horns here…that would’ve been fun.

We got back on the ship by 5pm. Close to 7 we went to supper, to the buffet. We both started out with a chocolate crepe hot off the griddle. Then I had a salad with some goat cheese, some roast beef, some pizza bread, etc. We played musical tables for supper every time we went to the buffet. It made us chuckle. For dessert we bought sweets; Tj got a chocolate cannoli (not great) and I got a Cake Boss Chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge icing…it was great!

Randy and Jay and FAM got their luggage last night! Poor saps not having any of their things for almost a week!

Man, being on a ship seems to bring out the worst in people! I was standing at the hostess stand at Versailles, literally touching it, opening my mouth to give the hostess our names for the wait list and an old Asian lady cut in front of me to ask how long the wait was. Not a big deal. But then she said she wanted a table for six. Before I could say we were next (in the nicest possible voice, of course) the hostess told her we were next. I thanked her.

Now it’s 8:40pm and the sun is shining like it’s 4pm. Tj and I are ‘watching’ some Cameron Diaz move set in the 70s or so. Funny and extremely strange.

I took my sleeping pill at 9pm. Last night Tj showed me the map on his phone and said tell me when you see the lines moving. These pills affect him quicker and stranger! I’ve never seen anything like he does.

We got off the ship around 7:15am…waited in a restaurant for a few minutes and then they herded us outside. We saw the guy holding the ‘Friends of Dave’ sign and headed over. Dave handed each of us our earpiece and receiver and we were off. (I think there were 19 of us.) It took me a while to realize he was gay, but by the end of the trip he was commenting on it a bit. I wondered how it was for him here in Germany; he didn’t mention that but when someone asked about safety in Russia he said as long as you didn’t wear rainbows there or hang around with him you would be fine. Apparently it’s serious business there.

He was a great guide…never rushed us along, and pretty much everything he told us was interesting. We went inside St. Nikolai in Wismar, everything else we saw was outside. This church was interesting because it was the original structure…all brick. Most other cathedrals in this area (and in much of Europe) were destroyed in WWII. I took several neat photos from inside but I can’t remember them right now…I’ll have to look at those photos. (Of course I’m writing this while semi-watching a stupid movie on the ship.)

We talked a little about WWII; David pointed out some brass markers in the sidewalks that are being put up today marking houses where Jews were taken. He said it was startling for him to come home one day to see plaques on his sidewalk. The house he lived in housed several Jews, and I think he said there were 9 plaques in a row on his street. So sad. He also mentioned ‘Sophie’s Choice’…I want to see that movie/read that book, and The Last Days (2005). He also talked about Sophie and Hans Scholl who were Germans that were killed for opposing the Nazi party/Hitler.

Other than those sobering points it was a good day. For lunch Tj had goulash and I had a huge pork chop stuffed with fruit. On the side was a purple cabbage salad and some kind of slaw. (On a side note, I think I only ate 1 prune and not much of those cabbage salads, but it was too much!) David told us that at the end of the day we would have our choice of eating cake or seeing the inside of Schwerin Castle. He said on our cruise we’d see so many castles that he didn’t think we needed to cram them into our day here. He said this castle had 14 rooms that we’d see, and that by the end of our week we’d probably only remember about 2 rooms, and by the time we got home we’d have forgotten what those even looked like! So we should eat cake. So we did. Tj had nougat and I had black forest. Yum! We sat across from an Australian couple and I learned that ‘tea’ there is supper, not just a snack.

This day was ‘Father’s Day’ in Germany. Dave told us several times that we would want to be back on this ship by 4-5pm. When we first went out guys were already hauling around wagons of beer and drinking liberally. Dave said they’d be throwing the bottles all around and picking fights later; that the streets would be filled with glass the next morning. Because of the holiday all the shops were closed. At the end of the day we walked past (and had time to look at) some really big sand sculptures. There was also shopping set up there. I bought Julie a cute blue and white owl mug. I was torn about buying more but Tj worried me about transporting them home without breaking them. We also bought Jack 2 pirate flags :-)

At the end of the day Tj had 20,000 steps on his pedometer!

The next day was a day at sea as we sailed the Baltic on our way to Estonia. It took Tj and me a while to work out our vacation nicely. To me vacation is lots of sitting and reading, napping, eating. Tj loves to explore every nook and cranny of the ship. So for a while I read while he explored. Did I mention he finds exploring by himself boring? It’s a bit tricky to work out, but we had a great time. We initially were planning on going to the captain’s party at 6pm, but decided to be lazy.

Tuesday night I slept soundly from 11pm-2am. Obviously jet lag is here. Guess we’ll nap on the ship! I played on my phone and then put it down at 3:30am.

I would swear that I didn’t sleep a wink from 3:30 on, but when the alarm rang at 9am I only realized it after Tj moved to wake me. It was freezing in there with the windows open…even with no a/c. I got up and started packing and Tj took a shower and got ready. We left the bags and went out to get pastries. I gave the lady the wrong amount of change…their coins are hard to read…the numbers are very small. We went back to the apartment and ate our breakfast leisurely. When we’d finished and were sitting there talking (not long after I asked Tj if he was just going to email them when we left the apartment) we heard the lock turn and in walked the boyfriend! He apologized and said he needed to go back and get a pack of cigarettes. I asked Tj about it and he said he’d told them we’d be out by 9 back in October and had forgotten to tell them any different. I hurriedly washed the 4 dishes we’d dirtied and we were out of there.

We rode the metro to the bus stop we wanted. An aside: I often hear about the loud/rude/whatever negative stereotype American, but every country has people like that. Apparently it isn’t the custom in Copenhagen (or all of Europe?) to wait in line. Every time we waited for the metro people stepped in front of us like we weren’t there…the last ones were definitely French. I’m too aggressive to let it go, I often step back in front of them. I think Tj’s nice enough that it would take him a few times missing the train to get aggressive…he’s a sweetie.

Anyway, we made our way to our bus stop and used our Copenhagen card to ride to the ship. When we got on the driver asked us where we were going, and when we said the ship another passenger said he thought that’s were everyone on the bus was going. When we got on there was standing room only, and it only got more full at each stop. It was so crowded at the front that some people got on at the back. When we all got off at the ship some people went up to the driver with money in hand to pay and he just waved them off. :-) What a nice way to start our cruise.

We got off the bus and I followed Tj to drop off our bags and wait in line for security. He kept looking around for the priority line, and I finally asked a worker about it. She said we were in the regular line. It was moving faster than the priority line anyway. After we checked in the lady there said we should have been in the priority line! So she escorted us to where we met our concierge and then our butler!!! We were then escorted onto the ship. I’d thought several times that day that I was never prepared for our ‘going on board picture’ (this is our 5th cruise). This time I was ready, and had reminded Tj once or twice to be prepared, but because we had been in the wrong line we missed having ours taken! Figures.

We were led directly to a restaurant for lunch. Of course I wasn’t hungry, but Tj was. He had lintel soup, a steak and fries and banana pudding. I had the shrimp cocktail (3 shrimp), bread and butter (super-great butter), and mocha chocolate brownie with lots of pecans in it and toffee (or something fancy) ice cream. Yum! We went to our room then, and looked out of the balcony onto the back of another ship. All I wanted to do then was be lazy and stay in the room until muster, but I knew Tj wanted to walk all over the ship. We basically did that until our muster, which was the easiest one I’ve ever done. The worst was the last one on Carnaval…it was so long, and the woman kept shushing us, but then they weren’t giving us any info so basically we were supposed to stand there silent for 20 minutes or so! This time our station was in a restaurant! We sat for about 5 minutes, then the PA came on and someone explained/showed us how to use the life vest, and in another 5 minutes we were done!

I went to the room to type on this and Tj went to watch the ship pull out of port. He was back soon saying it wasn’t as fun without me so I went with him. We stood at the front and watched until we were all the way out. Then our ship blew its horn to get a sailboat out of the way (I got pictures)…we all jumped! It was so loud. We people watched after that until we could go to supper at 6pm. Tj had a slider, veggie lasagne and dark cherry cheesecake; and I had beet salad (it only had 1 beet), duck confit with pasta and mushrooms, and cherry cordial (?). It was pretty good but I’m hoping for better.

We were going to go to the variety show then, and we did watch a couple of acts, but Tj’s head was killing him so we went back to the room. He was hoping to clear his headache so we could go to the interactive comedy show at 8:15. Our concierge came in to show us around then, and when he left we decided to hit the hay. We have a busy day planned for tomorrow starting early so we need to get some good rest. We took a sleeping pill the first night in Copenhagen. The second night I was sure we’d walked so far that we’d sleep like babies, but I was wrong! This is the third night and I’m a little worried about taking this pill when we have to be off the ship by 7am, but I don’t want jet lag to keep me down tomorrow! We’ll see how it goes. It’s 8:30 now and I’m about to shut it down…Tj’s already asleep. Hopefully this is our last fight with jet lag. I have a new appreciation for what Jo and Ted went through on our Med cruise way back in the day!

Cruise 26 May Monday 3:50pm

About a year ago Tj and I started planning a Baltic cruise. I was over-the-moon excited! We planned to take the boys, and what an educational trip this would be! Showing them how people in other countries live, how to be a world-traveler, how to treat other people and seeing how other cultures treat other people…wonderful! I told my mom what we were planning, and almost right away she offered to keep the boys while we went on this trip ourselves. I didn’t hesitate a minute! As much as I want to take them around the world, who knows when we’ll have another opportunity like this!

I want to say our trip started out well, but it almost didn’t start out at all! A couple of months ago Tj got a letter saying he had jury duty the whole month of May. Our cruise was the last week of May/first week of June! He wrote them a letter stating that we’d booked/paid for a vacation, and told them the dates. They wrote back and said no problem, he only had jury duty the very last week before the vacation. Heh. We kept hoping that he’d call the day before the duty started and they’d tell him don’t bother, but no such luck. He was foreman for the jury which lasted till noonish the Thursday before the trip, and it wore him out!

Then 2 weeks before we go my dad had a ‘slight’ heart attack on Thursday night. Mom said he was going to have bypass surgery the next Monday. Apparently she was keeping Jo’s 2 boys for the weekend. They’d just picked up the boys from school, gone to McD’s for ice cream and gotten back to Jo’s house when Papa said he needed to be taken to the hospital, he thought he was having a heart attack. He felt some tightness in his throat that was relieved with belching, and a slight pain in his left arm. Mom looked up hospitals on her ipad, got the boys back in the car and off they went. When they pulled up she saw a ‘no ER’ sign. She asked someone coming out of the hospital where the nearest ER was and was given a 10-mile option and a 13-mile option. She opted for the latter because she knew how to get back to that road. (They signed the paperwork for this house at the end of Feb. so they were still pretty new to the area…and Jo’s house is 30-40 mins from Mom’s house.) She plugged the info into the GPS in their new car and drove on. When they pulled up to the ER entrance a hospital employee opened the front door where Russell was sitting, and he started to get out! Mom said ‘No, that’s not the patient’ and by this time Papa was getting out. So he went into the hospital alone while Mom waited in the parking lot with the boys. About 15 minutes later the hospital called Mom and said they were admitting him. Mom drove the boys back to their house and got them ready for bed. She called Jo but told her not to come home, she had it under control (such my mother). In the end he spent the nights alone at the hospital till a day or so after the surgery when the nurse didn’t give him his morphine during the night. Over the weekend they were saying it looked like he needed 3-4 bypasses; he ended up having 5!! They said he’d prob be in the ICU for 1 day and then out of the hospital by Friday. He ended up staying in ICU till Thursday, I think, cause they couldn’t get his blood pressure up! I was sure we were canceling our vacation. Then I talked to Mom. All along she’d been saying they were fine, Papa was recovering well, she thought she could handle it. Thursday (a week before I drove the boys to Atlanta) when I talked to her she sounded like her normal self, and for the first time I believed that we wouldn’t need to cancel. The plan all along was for Mom/Papa to come here to watch the boys. This way Jack would be in school every day except the day we flew home, and Max is pretty self-sufficient/independent; it seemed like the easiest thing. Then when Papa had his heart attack I called the school and talked to the principal. I didn’t mention the trip, just said that we were going to Atlanta because my dad had a heart-attack so I’d like to take Jack out of school for the final two weeks. She graciously agreed to forgive Jack missing those days. How kind!

Other than that Max sprained his ankle the Friday before I took them to Atlanta so we skipped the fishing derby so he could ice/rest it all day Saturday/Sunday, Jack almost broke his toe the Thursday morning we left, my haircut was canceled that morning due to her daughter having stomach flu throughout the previous night. Not to mention the week before the jury duty our preacher (whom we love) announced that he’d been called to another area of service, and our favorite Sunday School class was canceled. It’s been a rough month!

But….once we got through all that it was smooth sailing!

I drove to Atlanta Thursday with no mishaps, stayed there Friday and my sisters came into town to visit (the only dicey part there was out of the corner of my eye I saw Papa grab Jack’s hand and twist it under and back. Mom said that Papa and Jack had been lightly playing around, then Jack hit Papa’s chest and that was Papa’s instinct. I’m kinda torn; we didn’t talk to Jack about the heart attack, I didn’t think he would understand much, and I figured he wouldn’t be playing around with Papa anyway, but we emphasized to Max several times that Papa had just had surgery so no roughness/be super careful. But on the other hand I know how instincts drive you when you’re really hurt, and even Jack’s tap on Papa’s chest must’ve felt horrible!). I drove home Saturday, went to church Sunday and the Hoopers drove us to the airport about 6pm Sunday night to fly out.

There was a little bit of trouble with our passports, but then they straightened it out. We only had a few minutes wait and it was time to board. Tj found out that morning that we got business class! He’d signed us up for a waiting list so if they weren’t full in business class we could pay (but not full price) for an upgrade. I can’t believe how wonderful and big our seats were. We got hot towels before supper and breakfast. Supper started with a salad with edamame, a hot roll with butter, couscous salad with figs, and togarashi tuna. We both had the short ribs with lyonnaise potatoes, and garlic spinach with tomatoes. It didn’t taste like airplane food! Those were great short ribs. I had Ben and Jerry’s dark chocolate ice cream for dessert…it was a little too much for me (I prefer milk chocolate to dark) but I was not complaining! What treatment!

After our meal we laid our beds out and made use of the complimentary eye masks and ear plugs. I slept off and on most of the night, but Tj didn’t fare so well. Our little fabric bags they gave us also included lip balm, lotion and toothbrush/paste which we made sure to use the next morning. There was a little buffet of snacks and drinks which we didn’t use, I actually had too much food both at supper and breakfast on the plane.

We landed in Copenhagen around 1:20pm, got our bags and took the train to our AirBNB apartment arriving around 2:30. The owner’s boyfriend showed us around, told us to be sure to turn the drain on before we showered, and left about 5 minutes later. The apartment is very nice; this is the first time we’ve used AirBNB, but it probably won’t be the last. Tj had said before we left LR that we were going to hit the ground running so as to beat jet lag. I said that was a great plan, and I wasn’t planning on getting to the room and then sleeping the rest of the day, but I thought we should plan a cushion of about an hour in case we were wiped out. So he took a 45-min nap and I started this blog.

When he woke up we cleaned up a bit and then left for sightseeing. Our first stop was 2 geocaches Tj looked up before we left home. Sadly we couldn’t find either! We walked (maybe a couple of miles?) to the restaurant, stopping a few times along the way at various stores. I found the cutest mobiles (made mostly of paper, some of thin plastic); I really wanted one that was hot air balloons, but it was kinda steep. We’ll see. We saw some street performers, kinda like in NO, there was the person all in silver (though in NO they paint their hands and faces; this guy had a mask and gloves on: cheater!), a juggler, a table with three heads on it (obviously it had holes for their heads and their bodies were hidden under the tablecloth) that jumped as a woman walked by and scared the heck out of her, and a guy on a pathetic flute-thing with the weird winter hat on (a panda, maybe, with long strings hanging down each side. Fun for kids and girls, but strange on him)…he was pretty lame…he didn’t even play a tune, just some random notes!

We ate dinner at Caphorn where we sat across from a shy older couple (Gary and Trudy; he likes the original German cars, they visited the BMW place there before the cruise), they’re from CA and cut and mount their own jewels, and travel around to jewelry shows. He was drafted in 63 or so and didn’t seem happy about it. Kate was heading up the group. She showed up late (we ordered without her), and said it was Tj’s fault she wore that hot sweater on this hot day! But she hugged everyone and asked about my dad. Joe was the first to ask about Papa out of the blue. I like him, not just for that, it just seemed like we could get along well (if we had been seated closer). I had beef carpaccio for the first time. It was good! Tj had a regular-sized steak. Our meal total was $73! Guess we’re going all out on this trip!

Tuesday I woke up about 8am, Tj had been up since 6, so then he promptly fell asleep! Goober. I showered and got all ready to go then woke him up. We left around 9:30 and headed to a bank to change some money for breakfast. We didn’t find the bank nor the pastry shop Tj’d looked up, but we ran across another pastry shop that took credit cards, so there was breakfast! We bought a bread with chocolate chips, a cinnamon roll looking-thing that looked like it was chocolate (turns out it was tons of cinnamon), and a pop-tart thing that seemed like a raspberry-shortbread sandwich with icing and sprinkles on top. We also bought a Coke Zero to split. On the way to our next stop we checked out the geochaches again and missed both again.

Our first sight was the Vor Frelsers Kirke…which was beautiful! The church had a huge organ inside being ‘held up’ by elephants! There were elephants all over inside, including one hanging from the chandelier. The pews inside all had doors with locks on them. We spent a little while inside, and then walked around to climb the tower. I read there were something like 395 steps up, but I didn’t count…didn’t want to tire myself out more than I had to! After climbing a good ways inside past some bells (one of them at least as tall as Tj!) we got to the outside portion of the climb; this was a spiral staircase to the top of the tower. It was so cool to look out over the city and see all the rusty-brown tile roofs, and the green copper-patinad domes, and the (industrial) windmills out in the water. On our way out we tried to buy a t-shirt for Hooper but they didn’t have any in his size.

Our next stop was the Kastellet star fortress. This wasn’t super impressive, but then we didn’t go inside. We’d spent so much time at the church the day was passing us by. Nearby was the Little Mermaid statue; we took some selfies there. It was about 2pm by this time, and we were surprisingly not too hungry, but I didn’t think I could make it until supper. I really wanted something Denmark-y to eat, and had read open-faced sandwiches were the thing to get. Tj wanted a sausage which is also very local. We looked everywhere along our route but the carts were never to be found when we wanted one.

Next was the Amalianborg – four almost identical castles. We saw the flag flying so we think the royal family was in residence. We didn’t want to go inside any of them, which was probably a good thing that day. Right nearby was the marble church, Marmorkirken, very beautiful outside. Our guidebook (by Rick Steves) described it as Pantheon-esque. We stopped inside for a few minutes; it was very pretty and I got a few shots.

We kept looking for a sandwich or sausage cart on the way to Glyptotek, but never found one. The Glyptotek was a museum of statues. We got to see lots of Roman, Greek and Etruscan statues. We looked around for an hour or so, enjoying ourselves except for the times we were in the glass-roofed rooms where there was no a/c…and it was hot! I took a couple of pictures on my phone; I’d forgotten to take out the camera when we put Tj’s backpack in the locker. When we left the museum and went into the gift shop I remembered that I’d wanted to see the statue by Degas of the ballerina. Oh well. Tj said it was 4 and we should start heading to supper; we would stop on the way and get the balloon mobile and the mistletoe cut-out I wanted (there was one hanging in the appartment)…they were on the way to Tivoli gardens where the restaurant was. By the time we got to the restaurant we were 20 minutes late! I couldn’t believe it took so long!

I got a steak and fries and Tj got Winerschnitzel with horseradish and lemon on top. Both were great. We each got a bottle of water, probably about 16 oz: $7 each!!! Copenhagen is soooo expensive! After sitting and talking for a while with the cruise critic people again we headed out to walk around Tivoli and get ice cream. I’m open to trying pretty much anything food-wise, and always enjoy other cultures’ food. But I love American ice cream. In other countries I find the ice cream to be so bland/light-tasting. I wonder if it’s because I have such allergies? In any case I don’t often enjoy foreign ice cream, and tonight was no exception. After we had 2 ice cream cones and 1 chocolate-marshmallow confection we left Tivoli and headed home. We stopped at a 7-11 and Tj got a sausage with chili, and I got a Holly candybar. We stopped in at the grocery store near our room and Tj got some deodorant and razors, and we bought a couple of drinks for the morning. The prices there were much more reasonable than 7-11!

We got back to the room and Tj soon fell asleep. It’s 10:30 now and still light out…I’m not sure it ever goes completely dark this time of year here. I’ll probably read my phone for a bit and then hit the hay, too. Tj had 25,000 steps on his pedometer when we got in. His feet are sore, and my calves both front and back are from all those steps. Totally worth it!


Cruise Critic people
Rich and Ellen (nurse)
Sue and Jerry (ate w them in Germany)
Joe and Linda (we want to visit but never get to)
Maria and Bob (headed up Russia tour)
Russia: Jan and Bob (younger)
Lisa artist and Jay historian and Randy
Gary and Trudy sat across from them both first dinners (cars and makes jewelry)
Mike and Becky sat next to Tj first dinner