Kenya, Africa March 2018

Kenya, Africa

Nairobi/Aberdare National Park

March 2018

Day 1

Jambo and rambunctious Swahili salutations from the foreign continent of Africa- where A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase are residing for the next 6 days.  A rather spirited and slightly psychotic traveling mania overtook this pair and after much preparation, violated by Typhoid and Hepatitis A inoculations, malaria antidotes ingested and armed with mass quantities of mosquito repellant-the time had finally come to scratch this big water buffalo off the list.

This ambitious trip could not be coordinated on our own efforts. This type of expedition takes experts- real professionals to synchronize the many moving pieces that are involved. For this, I deferred all expertise and guidance to Right Choice Tours and Safaris  George Oketch, the owner has been my right hand man through all the planning, patiently answering all my neurotic questions and lending his knowledge every step of the way. He and his team are true specialists in their field, and if embarking on this once of a lifetime trip-I highly recommend this agency.


After a little over 18 hours of flying time, 3 plane transfers and only 2 valium (physician prescribed)- we arrived close to midnight under the murky Onyx sky, balmy air and an inquisitive unknowing of what curious delights daylight would bring. A bit disoriented and pessimistically suspicious, armed with 4 bags and tourist written all over us, we began to wonder how to get to the hotel. As if on cue, a lovely gentleman approached us and quickly contacted the shuttle for our hotel for the night, The Lazizi Premier Nairobi-

Within moments, the shuttle appeared and in record time suitcases loaded and delivered us to a palatial estate, armed guards, iron fence and security all around the perimeter. At first glance, I would have thought this was an embassy. We were wanded and sent through metal detectors. The hotel is grand and sadly all its amenities were lost on us as it would only be a quick 5 hours of rest until our safari would begin.

However, those 5 hours were filled with plush bedding, a hot shower and a genuine stately feeling of luxury. Few things to say here about The Lazizi Premier Nairobi Hotel-the service is truly impeccable. You are made to feel like royalty. There is a level of hospitality- actually across the board I have experienced that can compare to no other. The staff are available at a moment’s notice and make you feel valued. Additionally, we had a delicious rather reasonably priced breakfast-even beating the tour group of 50 that trampled through the door.

Ken, our knowledgeable driver and guide from Right Choice Tours and Safaris picked us up promptly in a comfortable van. He informed us that he would remain with us throughout the whole excursion. As we snaked our way through the city center of Nairobi headed north to our next destination, he shared with us interesting tidbits of living in Kenya. The traffic inched at a crawl, but Ken with skillful precision maneuvered his way through the automobile obstacle.

As we left the city, the landscape changed. What I first observed, and I say this with regard was a remarkable number of individuals clearly with a notable lack of worldly goods but an innovative industriousness of the likes I have never ever seen, combined with a hard-working nature that was not only creative but practical.

Road side stands displaying the ripest of bananas, stall after stall of open markets with a cornucopia of goods- all of which we take for granted. Tiny huts, put together with a mix match of items dotted the dirt roads-everyone walked-literally-on the street, busy thoroughfares-all in a common effort of productivity. As I sat all cushy in the van, with my backpack filled to the brim of useless items, I could not help but feel a bit vain and pathetic.

However, as that thought still remained in a bubble over my head, Ken pulled up to a non-descript store full of African bric-a- brac-to allow us to have a rest and bathroom break.

In true car salesman style, Julius came rushing over to us to show off all of the genuine items, unmarked with prices-because it is all negotiable amongst “friends”.  Like a true sucker, I was given a basket and started mindlessly plopping items in there, as Hubs impatiently paced. When it came time to negotiate on the 5 useless objects- I was informed to pick my price. Well my price was $15. Julius gave me a guttural laugh with an arrogant sigh. He proceeded to give me his “friends and family” discount of $195. In the end, we never came close to a mutual amount-so with Hub’s wallet secure we exited item-less.

Which leads me to the next occurrence-we had no local currency- the African Schilling. Ken had assured us he would take us to a respectable bank so we can use an ATM. Hubs went on this mission alone. Then, he proudly came back with 200 Schillings. He declared we would need to split this up in small bills. Later on, after reviewing the bank balance- the actual withdrawal was $1.96. Now, tomorrow we must again inquire another ATM withdrawal from our dear new friend Ken. This time I will escort Hubs to ensure we have more than just enough for a pack of gum. He insists it was the machine’s fault with improper instructions. Nevertheless, we are rich in love and memories and poor in schillings.

Ken continued to make his way north through deep rusty earth coffee fields, pineapple plantations and lush greenery. Mountains off in the distance conjured up nostalgic movie scenes like “Out of Africa”. Eventually, we were dropped off at The Ark Lodge our dwelling for this one evening. We first were encouraged to walk around the grounds which were vibrant with bountiful flowers. We were fed a stupendous meal overlooking the beautiful landscape on the grounds of the country club- It was served buffet style with a smorgasbord of African delicacies. Being a vegetarian with many dietary constraints I was apprehensive, but many options were available and they were all healthy and delicious. Between the amazing cuisine, stellar view, incredible weather and my love at my side- it really may go down as one of the most memorable moments on a vacation.

After the incredible dining experience, Hubs and I along with about 8 other people all piled into a van to go the 17 kilometers through the Aberdare National Park We rumbled and bopped over the bumpy road creating a lullaby affect. I nodded on and off during this as they were many important scenic points and animals the driver was directing us to.

We eventually made it to the beautiful lodge in the shape of an Ark- hence the name-nestled up high above the ground with a rapturing bird’s eye view of all the wild animals below. There was a conveniently placed popular watering hole and immediately we spotted elephants and water buffalo. A little tiff began but no blood was shed and all ended well. As a girl who usually vacations in the city and observes people, music, art and culture-this sort of viewing was very calming and required not too much thinking. Both have their fine points, but this was truly a unique and welcoming experience.

There are several convenient balconies that overlook the waterhole and a bell would ring if something is worthy of watching. A bell rang for the elephants and inspired I brought my computer and started this blog.


We then a few hours later were summoned for dinner. Dinner was also buffet style in a lovely dining hall. Hot, savory African dishes awaited us. A creamed spinach soup, different mouthwatering vegetable entrees and bean choices. Desserts (which yours truly refrained from) were plentiful and as beautiful as a painting.

I now am ready to call my first Safari night to an end. As the pitter patter of a pretty substantial rain system moistens this much needed dry earth, I reflect upon the blessings of a beautiful day in the glorious land of Africa.

Kenya, Africa

Aberdare National Park/Lake Nakuru

March 2018

Day 2

Last night we were serenaded to sleep by the rhythmic acoustics of toads, bugs and other night critter harmony. Nestled in our twin single beds with only the simplest of creature comforts, my sleep was heavy from a day full of sensory overload.

Upon awakening, of course shower drama follows me on every trip, shall I remind you of the coffin sized shower in Bruges, the partial bowel dismemberment of Milan and of course, the most famous Hong Kong flood that called for major plumbing renovations?

Well, rustic indeed was this shower, but the instructions were confusing and only icicle temperature droplets dribbled down. After futile attempts, I gave up-doing the best with what I had. And, in true Hubs fashion- he had the most delightful hot shower-that he reminded me of all throughout the day.

Breakfast was served in the beautiful dining room overlooking the breathtaking landscape. African specialties along with an omelet station fueled us for the long day ahead. The service, attention to detail, incredible gentile nature and hospitality of the staff was unmatched by any other experience in any other culture. We left The Ark with fond memories of the views, animals, food and genuine kindness of the people in our hearts. Back in the van we went on the bumpy ride back to meet back up with Ken our driver to begin our next excursion.

We went back out onto to the dirt roads.  Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa next to Kilimanjaro- off in the deep distance snowcapped peaks and blue horizon made a brief appearance, escorting us for a short sojourn

For hours we passed impoverished towns, perhaps lacking what we find as essential. But, what we saw instead was smiling waving children, hard working men, commerce freely flowing in makeshift storefronts and genuine humanity.  I must pause here to share the children-all dressed immaculately, all walking- no buses, no carpools- and no cell phones. Each child we passed waved with enthusiasm, smile and joy in their heart. It was the most beautiful human experience I have had-literally just from a window of a van. I have never felt that kind of delight from the simplest of pleasures.

About a ¼ way through our journey Ken stopped for a bathroom break at a kitschy souvenir store. The owner led us down the pebbled floor pointing out trinkets along the way to the rudimentary much appreciated rest room.  Hubs provided fair warning-“No buying!”  However, interesting fact here, we were directly on the equator line. In fact, I believe all the businesses along this route touted this.  A lovely gentleman was proudly displaying an experiment exhibiting this interesting phenomenon involving water and its opposite effects when below the equator line.

But, instead-Hubs tried to share with this man that knew this because he had obtained his expertise from Bart Simpson extracted from an episode of “The Simpsons”.  The poor gentleman laughed in confusion (as I am pretty certain he does not have a TV or know of this show or characters) as I looked on with dismay. I am including the link for your viewing pleasure.

We traveled on eventually running into The Great Rift Valley  We took a few moments to soak in the splendor of it. Visible from space, this 4,000 mile geographical majesty runs north to south from Syria to Africa.  A seriously deathly looking wooden deck in shambles hugged close to the dramatic edge. Hawkish vendors trying to sell “authentic” souvenirs somewhat diluted this experience with their goods lined up all along the viewing area. Precariously straddling the abyss, with my memory card full, I sadly have not one picture to share.

This blog was created out of necessity to cleanse my brain of each experience so I can move on and enjoy the next. But, it has evolved also into a tool belt of sorts for the novice traveler. I lend my stories, experiences and insight not for ego but for assistance. I share this story with you so you-the reader, do not make the same mistakes I have made. When you travel savvy- you save time, frustration and also enhance your travel experience by focusing on what matters.

So, let’s continue this conversation briefly regarding currency-and only in the frame of “learned lessons”. 10,000 African Schillings = $100 USD. Got it? Good. Because apparently between Hubs & I and a recently earned Master’s degree -this concept, combined with jet lag, foreign African ingested spices and equator “madness” we could not grasp. Ken, kindly and patiently once again schlepped us into the city all in an effort for us to once again go to an ATM to obtain Schillings.

If you recall- yesterday instead of getting $200 Schillings we obtained $1.96. Therefore, armed with the knowledge of google and a currency converter- we once again attempted the ATM excursion. This time, it took 3 attempts and several different tries- but eventually we achieved success. Or so we thought…. Until again, -when we did the math- this time we took out $40 instead of $400.

Ken graciously agreed to make one last final effort on our long journey in the morning. To grasp this- understand that these towns with bank accessibility are far and few between with traffic mayhem and parking chaos of the likes I have never ever witnessed before. And, in full disclosure, this mathematical mishap is solely owned by Yours Truly.

Now, back to our previously scheduled entertainment….

We eventually made our way to our destination-Lake Nakuru  As we entered the park gates, we went for a quick, rousing, heart racing drive through the park. Ken raised the roof on our van and Hubs and I perched out the top, wind in our hair, grit in our eyes, perhaps bugs up the nose in an exhilarating voyage through the park en route to the lodge. We spotted a few interesting animals along the way, but the real thrill was the rugged off road experience and total abandonment of rules, etiquette and adulthood.

After our Dukes of Hazard adventure, we arrived at the Lion Sarova Hill It is perched on the side of a hill, deep in the Nakuru National Park.  It combines a safari adventure experience with luxury resort amenities-a hybrid of five star opulence and BIG 5 excitement. We were immediately ushered to the dining room where a grand buffet awaited us. A variety of different but similar African dishes, unique vegetarian options, Indian specialties, fancy cheeses and of course indulgent desserts were offered. That same Kenyan love, quiet gentleness and stellar service was ever present. After our afternoon feast, we hit the colorful gift shop for some haggle-free shopping, including a darling Cheetah Indian wall mask that will look divine in my living room.

We then met up with Ken once again for our afternoon game drive. It was raining pretty steady at this point and my expectations were low. Because, frankly if I were a monkey and it was raining, I would head for high, drier ground. However, shortly into our drive as we circled the vast marshy acreage of Lake Nakuru, the sun erupted; the skies turned blue and one by one, as if on cue- animals appeared.

We witnessed flamingoes off in the boggy distance balanced on their fragile limbs displaying their effervescent pink hues. Baboons cradled their babies with motherly love, traveling in familial unity. The parallel black and white patterns of the zebras were captivating in the camouflage of the plush green landscape. In a rather juxtaposition, the giraffe intimidatingly regal and proud engaged in playful neck wrestling with their counterparts.

Around another bend, flowing brown water, splashing brilliantly danced on the jagged rocks in a dramatic waterfall display. The white Rhino calmly and silently munched on the plentiful green grass- its pearly thick, white tusk proudly protruding forward in prideful glory, oblivious to the spectator’s gazing. In gazelle pageantry, the Impala leaped rambunctiously gracefully joining his pack. Water Buffalos grazed along the water’s edge with their coiled horns exposed like warning signs for other prey. They were abundant, populating the landscape.

Odd colored birds dotted the exterior, swooping down in fanciful flight, using many of the animals as landing zones providing tick relief as well as tummy tickling. The overall feel of the game drive was a sense of intuitive, animal unity-an unsaid tranquility amongst the different species all coexisting in a harmonious state. Having said all that, an obvious absence of any predators was noted. All in all, the 3 hour game drive was the experience of a lifetime. Animals instinctually understand their world and their place in it; sometimes, better than our human world.


After the excitement of the game drive, we had a few hours for rest and then it was time for dinner. We ate in the same dining room, with many of the same items. A few variances, some odd and peculiar concoctions that my simplistic taste buds rejected. A lovely man played guitar singing along sweet melodies that strangely had a calming effect not only on the frenzied children in the restaurant- but the Hubs as well. He sang tableside crooning Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” with a thick African accent deep into my Beloved’s eyes. The result was positively sedating.

Back in our room, a staff member came to the door for turn down service, which included mosquito repellant, a hot water bottle placed in the bed, and enclosing the mosquito netting securely around the bed (which Hubs and I quickly dismantled due to safety concerns of waking up hog tied in netting) another kind and unique gesture that did not go unrecognized.

Sleep was fitful and uneasy with vivid dreams induced by spicy Indian cuisine, the sighting of a monkey with blue balls-called the Blue Balled Monkey (true story) and the African Elvis Presley vocals circulating around my jostled cortex from Jeep activity.

Kenya, Africa

Masai Mara

March 2018

Day 3

Today is not only St. Patrick’s day- but also the Hubs birthday. This is always a joyous day and almost always is spent somewhere international. This year was truly the ultimate –being in Africa and on safari. However, we were the only 2 fools in Irish gear as we would later find out. But, nonetheless, I celebrate the day and my Hubs and no matter anything else.

This morning we arose very early- per Ken’s request due to a long day of driving.  Some very much appreciated hot showers followed by a hot breakfast with exotic items furnishing the buffet line and subsequently beckoning the Hubs to be adventurous. He dined on itty bitty Quail eggs. Tiny and minuscule and for whatever reason to me- off-putting-but Hubs seemed satisfied.

In the mystic dark, with fog peeking out above Mount Kenya we moved counter clockwise on a map to the next destination. Conversation was plentiful in the van, the roads were smooth and a genuine contentment settled in my soul. As the sun began to rise, the cool air evaporated and the heat began to intensify.

The roads started to get a little bumpy. And, let me just share that tapping away on a keyboard balanced on your knees while hitting asphalt craters is not easy. Consider this burden please as you peruse my pages.

We were moving along at a pretty good clip in that feisty white van of ours. May I add here, that Ken is quite a driving genius.  He maneuvers not only muddy, undeveloped passageways, he is alert and ready for the roaming goat, flock of sheep, parade of cows, and not to mention cars passing on both sides of the road. I have yet to see a traffic light or a stop sign and additionally mopeds carrying 2-3 passengers share the roadway as well. Ken handles all this calm and cool and always alert, even while I am rapid firing questions regarding everything I ever needed to know about Kenya.

Out of nowhere, traffic came to a complete halt. There were cars lined up on the curb, the street and everywhere in between half-hazardly. People were roaming out of their vehicles, cell phones in hand trying to capture whatever madness was happening. Out of nowhere I saw white smoke, heard yelling and our driver pulled inside the parking lot of a souvenir shop. Ken went towards the mayhem to determine what was happening.

What we learned was 3 unfortunate members of the Masai Masai tribe had been killed during a mudslide that occurred during a ferocious storm 2 nights ago. The individuals were all buried deep within the mud and the tribe was frustrated that no excavations had been attempted for their bodies.  This led to the tribe members blocking off the street of a major highway in protest. The cops and militia intervened with tear gas.

Being in a foreign country, not being privy to these nuances and clearly not understanding the history and delicate nature of this was frustrating and scary for me. We sat outside with hundreds of other people all taking this in stride. A bunch of millennial aged Canadians pulled out a ukulele and began to sing in perfect harmony songs that inspired hope, love and peace. Others joined to listen, all from different nations, backgrounds and languages.  It was a “Woodstock-esque” type of moment that offered great comfort and distraction.

When you have nowhere to go, no one to see, no WIFI, no TV, and nothing much to do- you take a lot in. We saw a lot of weird stuff. There was a battered up station wagon of sorts, a typical family mobile, loaded with 30 goats. The smells that penetrated within 20 feet of that car were intense. And, at one point, they were all led out like clowns disassembling from a Volkswagen. One gentleman had a truck stacked high with over 100 chairs. Just a random odd thing, that made us curiously wonder-what on earth was he doing with all those chairs? And, lastly, and I really can’t un-see this- was about 50 live chickens wedged up on the luggage rack of a car.  All yelping, their little beaks- they were not in a crate or a cage, just shoved up in there somehow.

We waited for 2 hours for the two forces to come to a compromise. And, then as quickly as it happened people were scrambling in their cars, pushing through frantic traffic on their way to their original destination. As we drove by the commotion, a bulldozer was in place beginning to temper the sacred earth in search of the remains of the blessed souls that lost their lives. The Masai Masai had a bittersweet victory in the end.

With all this commotion, we lost 2 valuable hours shifting our whole itinerary and choosing to skip lunch in an effort to get to our next destination at a reasonable time.

At this point, I must just provide an update and never ever speak of this again. Upon our 3rd and final visit to the ATM, we were successful with decimal points and mathematical equations and obtained the necessary schillings needed for the remainder of the trip.

The next portion of this day involved gyrations, jiggling, jostling and bumping of the likes my mind, body and spirit have never experienced. Our last and final residence for the next 3 days is Masai Mara

The journey for the next 4 hours was one I could have never prepared myself for. The windows had to be closed otherwise one would inhale dirt; I do not think this rugged terrain vehicle had air or did not reach me. The heat was scorching. The “road” was filled with rocks, divots, craters, bumps, the occasional goat, roaming small children and nothing else. No other vehicles for hours, unless it was a mirror image of us heading to safari.

However, a beautiful thing came out of that long, not so pleasant trek-we stopped at the Masai Masai tribal village and handed out candy and school supplies to the children of the tribe.  Bless their sweet souls, they were so polite and all sat and silently waited for their one single sweet treat. At the end, the tribe leader requested we all take a picture (with my camera). The joy and gratitude for such a simple offering will stay in my heart forever.

We finally made our way after 8 long hours to Mara Serena Lodge where we will reside for 3 nights. Coming from the vast expanse of the Masai Mara Park, the lodge is situated on an impressive hill. The architecture is reminiscent of “The Flintstones” in similar bedrock meets African safari design. It is wide open with commanding arch ceilings and magnificent views of the park from horizon to horizon. Our room resembles a bee hive with a balcony and same beautiful view of the park.

After a long day stuck in the car, I was anxious to get my blood flowing. I went down to the spa and took a nice run on the treadmill that just happened to also have another breathtaking view of the park. Wide open windows gave the illusion that I was indeed running right along the jackals. After a good sweat, I took a much appreciated hot shower and we made our way to the dining room for dinner.

Dinner was very comparable to the two other lodges we had stayed- buffet style with many Indian and vegetarian dishes. It was tasty, spicy and needed after a long day and a skipped lunch due to the riot delay.

After dinner, much to the Hub’s chagrin, out popped a precession of the entire staff  along with a loud and intimidating horn and drums- to sing a traditional African Happy Birthday song along with a beautiful cake that was prearranged with George from Right Choice Tours and Safaris-many months ago. The whole dining room, patrons and staff sang along as the conga line circled around the Hub’s. Flush with embarrassment and mild amusement, he blew out his candles with a big smile on his face. I know this birthday he will always remember. I really couldn’t thank the team enough as they were able to in one song and dance, express the love and appreciation I have of my Hub’s in such a playful and energetic way. High from sugar and birthday love- combined with odd critter sounds of the evening the lull of sleep enveloped us.

Kenya, Africa

Masai Mara

March 2018

Day 4

We woke up bright and early and following breakfast, Ken was waiting for us with the van newly washed and sparkly clean. All remnants of dust, dirt, mud and bug carcasses were gone- symbolic for a new day and a new experience. We set out in pre-dawn lighting while all the animals began to awake. We were immediately greeted by a family of docile and gentle elephants. There long trunks snaked the earth foraging for tasty treats. There were unimpressed by us and paid no attention to the camera clicking and engine running.

We continued on as the golden grass swayed in the cool morning air. We found ourselves right in the path of a pregnant female lion, hungry and ready for breakfast. She had a pack of 7 or 8 others with her. As they made their way closer to us, a bunch of Elk started to gallop fiercely away. Strange primitive noises were audible throughout the area, fear was palpable. Other animals around not quick enough to flee, stood statuesque and still. We stayed parallel in our vehicle with top up peering down witnessing primal animal instinctiveness. As we stared half anticipation, half dread we could not look away. Van after van piled up, side by side with the radio clatter of CB’s in Swahili alerting other drivers of action. In the end, the Lion moved on and fortunately we did not have to witness the law of the land and fight for survival.


We continued on in the morning hours, riding along the Mara River, directly at the crossing where in July the Great Migration of Wildebeests will take over. For now, it was calm. Colossal slate grey Hippos lounged lazily in the brown, earthy rapid flowing River. Their perky pink ears flittered and twitched randomly, displaying their only action. Frighteningly close lay the Crocodile, his deceptive toothy smile revealing their true lethal potential.

We stopped in a trusted area chosen by our guide, who spread out a blanket and provided us with a picnic lunch. The gesture was kind, the food unimpressive, but the view and experience –memorable.


After lunch, we circled the park, passing by many of the monochromatic Zebra, mindlessly munching on grass. We looked on in amusement at the slovenly Water Buffalo, dunking himself in mud and obsessively swatting his backside with tail in OCD fashion. We drove by many giraffe, gallant and graceful. They gazed at us with their long, luscious eyelashes and awkwardly sauntered off as we drew closer. We learned the Black Rhino is shy and played a cunning game of hide and seek with us-he eventually won.



As the day drew on and it was close to going back, our driver learned that across the park at the far end was a bunch of leopards. The driver put the van in high gear, flooring it from one end to the other. Pebbles flew up in the air, mud splattered ferociously on us, weaving in and out of the path- getting stuck more than once and even having to be towed out from another van.

It took 2 hours to get to the spot, and just as we were to give up, we came upon a bunch of Cheetahs. Fat and happy, bellies full, they laid under a tree allowing the 4 vans of paparazzi to click one photo after another. We then set out to return. Then, at once- the sky turned black and rain fiercely pounded on the roof of the van.

Droplets began creeping in making our already muddy, tired and beaten up bodies cold and damp. Ken floored it going back as the roads turned into roaring rapids. The window was a sheet of fog and there were no other vans in front or behind us. All CB chatter had ceased. And, for one scary moment, I truly thought this is it. This is how it happens.  I get swept away in an African current and washed out to a field where lions will munch on my bloated corpse.

Ironically, though as I sat and prayed and wondered morbidly how tasty my dead body is?  The engine started to take on a strange sound. I saw with fear and premonition that Ken knew something was wrong. He was calmly on the phone speaking in Swahili, where I clearly kept hearing the word engine. I then, thought, No this is really how it ends. We are stranded in this car, in the middle of an active African Ecosystem. I will at some point have to emerge from this vehicle that has failed us. I will have to step outside and the lions will smell my fear and end the same way-eating my body. But, this time, not swollen and bloated from drowning. I will be eaten alive and spend my eternity embedded in African soil.

Ok, this is getting a bit heavy- you get the point- It was scary. Everything got real- real fast. I thought to myself- you had to tempt the Gods. You could not just stay home and watch Real Housewives and live a falsely perceived “safe” life?

And, then as if the Safari Gods had heard my neurotic mind nonsense-a jeep appeared. I did have to exit the van and climb into his. No lions appeared that I know of….He took us and towed Ken, the van and the faulty transmission back to the lodge.  Never once did Ken jeopardize my safety and he truly did a stellar job remaining calm and getting us back to the lodge safely. Our whole day’s excursion lasted 12 hours.

Arriving back to the room, grateful for a happy ending- I pondered my dramatic alternate endings. I asked the Hubs for one second did he have any fear? Nope he said. Then, he proceeded to inquire about 10 questions having to do with clothing supply for the remainder of the trip and such. This he FEARED. Death by drowning or lion ingestion- he did not. Hmppph….

We ate another spicy, Indian dinner in a relatively quiet dining hall. No singing, no dancing, no cake. We called it an early evening as the rain continued on throughout the night.

Now, you are all caught up. I hope you have enjoyed this African segment of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase.


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Copenhagen/Hamburg September 2017 Trip Report

Copenhagen, Denmark

September 2017

A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase

This travel blog has provided me with a much needed outlet and means for creativity since its inception many trips ago. But, in full transparency, my life has drastically changed for the better-due to a 140+ pound weight loss over the past year.  Much of the foundation of this blog is generated and inspired from food, the fine, tasty, exotic delicacies of a new world, being a plus size gal in a European world and the numerous obstacles that often arise -good, bad and ugly -all too often- with yours truly the center of all the mayhem. In all intents and purposes, countless antics, international chaos and boundless antidotes were driven from the challenges faced above.

I preface all this because-I have been experiencing writer’s block. Think of it this way-this trip is enhanced in every single facet due to a lack of these nuisances replaced by new and exciting nuances.  However, since I have internally and externally changed-please bear with me that my writing, focus and content must adapt as well. Consider this “ A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase- 2.0”- new and improved- higher in quality-fewer in calories and denser with more nutrient rich commentary. I hope you enjoy the new improved version and find it just as filling and satisfying as its predecessor. And, although it may lack a bit in flavor and culinary splendor it will certainly provide an equally stimulating entertainment experience.

Now, having said all that-

On with the show….

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.”

Hans Christian Andersen

It is only appropriate to pay homage to the real architect of Copenhagen. Not a designer of structures, but of fairy tales and colorful stories. He is viewed as a national treasure in this region and there are references everywhere to his literary contributions.

Denmark –a geographical appendage off of Germany and sandwiched within the Scandinavian neighbors of Norway and Sweden is the topic for today’s installment of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase. Centering primarily in Copenhagen will be the focus for the next 4 days followed by the nautical city of Hamburg, Germany.  These roving rebels got a taste of the Scandic life last year in Norway and decided to stay with the revolutionary Viking theme. Although, Copenhagen has so much more to offer than that-but one needs to look beyond the hokey, tourist novelty of it-to see the true luster of Denmark.

Arriving late in the afternoon jet lagged and weary-we caught a train to the downtown region. From the train, we set out on foot in search of our hotel. Cobblestone and rolling luggage is a bad combo. That is all I will say regarding this. After the frozen shoulder subsided and the blisters stopped throbbing, I am now able to laugh about getting a bit lost cursing the misfortune of the banning of Uber and lack of WIFI that subsequently waylaid our arrival to the lovely Scandic Front Hotel

This modern hotel is situated right on the water in the trendy Nyhaven neighborhood Nyhaven is a pedestrian friendly, hip, energetic area with high end popular restaurants, bars and shops. The hotel is slightly out of the congestion but close enough to access all the fine places if needed.

Tired and drained from the wears of travel, we showered and fell fast asleep, for the remainder of the night- very different than our usual first night exploration. However, this worked out well, as the next morning we arose before sunrise to take advantage of the hotel gym.

Two peculiar and disappointing events occurred. Apparently, along with banned Uber- so is Pandora. This is a much essential requirement for me to exercise. Secondly, the equipment was reminiscent of the Ford administration. Making do with these sad “first world” problems, we made the best of it. Knowing without a doubt that we would earn our much needed steps from concrete and walking –all easily available to us.

We partook in the yummy breakfast items on display for us. Fresh fruit, fancy cheese and numerous other treats -fueling our bodies for the long day planned ahead.

Setting out in the early morning- the city was still asleep. Stores were still closed and the remnants of last night’s ruckus remained in the air.

We walked to Starbuck’s and stuck with our usual morning routine, enthusiastic and eager for the itinerary the Hubs had worked so hard on.

At 11 am we met outside City Hall to meet up with the Copenhagen Free walking tour I highly recommend any kind of walking tour option when getting to know a new city. Exploring on foot offers a unique connection that any other mode cannot accomplish. And, free is always a bonus. These local run operations are funded on tips-so you pay what you feel it is worth. This works out well for us and we avail these opportunities whenever it is offered in a city.

Standing outside City Hall, one by one- an assembly line of cookie cutter “just married” couples sprung out the door steps- the grooms dazed and bewildered and the brides all beaming.  Magnus, our rugged Dane tour guide was full of witty dialogue, a worldly spin on humor (he has a real issue with the Swedish) and a local take on Copenhagen that was clearly demonstrated in his expertise.

Fast and spry, he leapfrogged through the streets with the eclectic group of 25 in tow snaking us all through the cobblestone streets quickly as he recited fun facts, useless tidbits and Copenhagen insider suggestions on future outing options.


Magnus the tour guide

Among some of the memorable commentary in the fun packed 2 hours were: The Parliament, Carlsberg Beer, politics, World War II, The Royal Palace and a common theme of his benign and humorous “disdain” for the Swedish.

After the tour, we walked through the greenest, lushest park King’s Garden- This park dates back to the 1600’s and we were not alone in our pleasure. Everyone was out enjoying the magnificent sunshine. We saddled up to a bench to enjoy a light lunch under a serene tree.

After lunch, we decided to activate our brain and just down the path was the National Gallery of Denmark – We leisurely perused the paintings stimulating our art craving. After a few hours, brain drain and physical exhaustion began to creep in.

Later that night, we walked across the waterway to the famous Royal Danish Opera House for the opera Rigoletto. A timeless tale dating back to 1851 and first composed by Verdi-it is marveled as a classic.

Here is the description:

“A troubling tale in a crazy, insane and freaky David Lynch-setting. Full of paintings, art, and a complete new way to tell this classic and loved story.”

Well, something tells me-I should have paid attention to this “David Lynch” business. Let me talk about the positives first….

The venue itself is modern, clean lines and intimate. Our seats were incredible, spacious and comfortable, the voices angelic.

Ok, the negatives….The show in itself was disturbing. A modern take on a classic, naughty transvestite nurses (to each his own- no judgement), a man baby with a diaper, onesie and a pacifier, a naked lady with improper grooming techniques and tassels, oh and subtitles in Danish and singing- of course in Italian.

Well, the conservative, slightly uptight prude in me struggled with finding the “art” in this Pulp Fiction vs. Blue Velvet version. However, Hubs was clapping, applauding and standing “O” even for diaper man- along, with the rest of the I assume more liberal thinking Danes. Call me uptight, call me a “killjoy”, but I had to literally just close my eyes to try to take in the operatic melodies that these characters did indeed exude. I will never be able to “un-see” diaper man and that maybe the biggest tragedy of all, as well as the $200+ spent on the show. I would not call it a full on disaster because the orchestra was stellar and perhaps the most beautiful version of  La Dona e mobile I have ever heard .

I will include a link if you are curious-because most certainly you will recognize this song .

On the way back, in the cool autumn air, as the water illuminated under the moon’s gaze-I berated the poor Hubs and his entertainment selection. I went on and on and sadly on, missing out on all the beauty around me. For one brief moment, I had an outer body experience and saw and heard my pathetic self -mad over a tasteless (in my opinion) version of –let’s just be real folks- a luxury.

I quickly readjusted my thinking-and shut it down-rest in peace diaper man. No need to belabor this discussion any further.

Day 2


This city is a millennial hotbed-young, loud, energetic and drunk at all hours –and conveniently -right outside our hotel window. Lucky for us-exhaustion and blissful sleep comes with this compact schedule. Sunday morning began wet, dreary and sunless. We made our way to The National Museum of Denmark – The museum is chockfull of Denmark history. It takes one on a 2,000 year journey through Denmark’s evolution with antiquities, displays and bric-a- brac emphasizing its significant impact on the world. It helped fill in some of the gaps and create a clearer picture of this country and its place as a world leader and influencer. 2 well spent hours were allocated here- well worth it and highly recommended.

We stopped off at Starbuck’s to sit, relax and rejuvenate for our next activity-next on the agenda Tivoli Gardens This is the place that inspired Walt Disney. Built in 1843-this amusement park screams old world. We happened to be there the last day of the season. We prepurchased our tickets. There are two options-one just for entrance and another additional pricing for unlimited rides.

We chose to live on the edge and opted for unlimited rides as well. You walk into the entrance and you are instantly transcended back in time. It’s as if, I immersed myself in a Matisse painting during the French Impressionism phase. The park has a nostalgic presence to it, with old world charm and genteel elegance. Popcorn, cotton candy and waffles permeate the air in sugary delight.

Multi-generations gather on the sprawling green lawn in canvas lounge chairs, soaking in the last days of warm sun. Children’s laughter echo behind the rumble of a thundering roller coaster and the staccato shrill of dare devil thrill seekers. The essence of pure innocence, timeless fun and forgivable gluttony seemed to be a common thread crossing all demographics.

In the 23 years yours truly and Hubs have been together, amusement parks has never been our thing. Plus size and roller coasters do not go well together, therefore, for me-not something I truly enjoyed. Well, let me tell you-was I missing out! Hubs and I went on every ride that did not go upside down- his one and only criteria. Other than that-we tried everything. The laughter, exhilaration, adrenaline and pleasure were endless. We jumped from line to line-leaping in the buckets, seats, benches and other contraptions with nothing more than a wing and a prayer that this century old equipment would support us.

The ride lines were almost nothing, minutes at most-if that. The rides itself were three times longer than any park I have ever been to. I laughed so much on one ride, my tummy muscles literally ached from the fervent belly thrusts.

After a few hours, we sat on the plush lawn, in comfy canvas chairs as the fall air cooled as the sun faded. We sat like this for a long time. Snuggly and close, letting the happiness of the day settle in our souls, stocking up a nice reserve supply for a day many months from now, far from here where we may need to remember what pure joy feels like. But, for now-this moment- we treasured like sand slipping through an hour glass.


Before we left, we had Thai at Wagamama- -right in the park. As we left, a bittersweet joy/sadness resonated in my belly-knowing this day was pretty darn special and could never be replicated.


Day 3


Are you still following along? This day was a doozy. Hang on tight, because this story just keeps getting better. This morning after breakfast, Hubs talked me into yet another adventure yours truly has not done in her adult life. We rented bikes from our hotel. Everyone and I mean everyone-young, old, big, small-everyone-rides bikes here. Some more aggressive than other, some strange looking bikes that appear homemade, some fancy, some with pretty baskets-but they all ride bikes.

So, as I eyed this device I gauged my smaller body parts and calculated my out of pocket insurance deductible-and I figured -why not? After a few painful, whining, fearful and irritating minutes for the Hubs particularly- I mustered up the courage and off I was on my ten- speed bike helmet on head cycling like a pro. The sun was intense and bright, the air was chilly and the new motion of my virgin limbs and joints went right into action.

We rode by our hotel right on the waterfront. We passed large mast ships, tethered to the dock. We rode by a beautiful church St. Alban’s Anglican Church- Built in 1885, perched overlooking the water-it was simply beautiful. However, a million photo snapping tourists agreed with that. So, we kept going. We made our way to the Little Mermaid statue This 100 year old bronze statue honors the fables of Hans Christian Anderson who wrote of a mermaid who gives up everything to live on land for her love of a man.

Again, 1,000 eager camera snapping tourists surround the poor naked mermaid-hurdling over jagged, wet rocks-risking life and limb for that perfect shot. A couple snapshots were attempted by yours truly before cycling on.

We continued down a path that led us to Kastellet- This stunning fortress from the 1600’s -in a citadel shape is a working military barracks. As we rode by the changing of the guards, I immediately felt I was trespassing into another world. We parked our bikes and ascended up a path that overlooked the waterway below. Cannons displayed throughout the path. A bucolic wind mill stood stoically on guard. We sat at a bench taking in the warmth of the day and absorbing in the splendor that surrounded us.


We snaked our way around and made our way to Freetown Christiania- Founded in 1971, it is a neighborhood known for its “hippy, free thinking” society. As you enter the area, homemade, “artsy” vibrant workshops and homes flank the street. A pungent, reminiscent “skunk-like” odor hangs thick in the air. Holding my breath, for fear of a “contact high”- I clearly had tourist written all over me with my “Scandic Front” bike, helmet, braids and judgement (I know, I know…working on this part). Hubs suggested looking for a nice bench for a picnic at this point. I speeded up my pace, ignoring him-knowing I have seen and experienced all the free loving I needed to. To each his own honestly-not my scene. Take it off the list…

Image result for images freetown christiania copenhagen'

We made our way back to civilization. We had a nice picnic lunch of light snacks on the water before heading back to the hotel. From there, we divvied up all our dirty laundry, plopped it in our bike basket and made our way to a local laundromat.

Using up every lost Krone we had (Danish currency) we enlisted the assistance of a sweet little Danish woman and communicating with charades, hand signals and finger pointing –we eventually were able to operate the machinery.


Clean clothes in tow, we ventured back to the hotel. For dinner, we drove back across the water to Papiroen It is a unique dwelling with 40 food stalls- anywhere from vegan to pork and beyond. We circled around the popular place, taking in the many different smells before making a decision. I settled on a vegan burger with unique and tasty toppings on a bed of lettuce. Frank chose a pork sandwich, hand carved and presented beautifully. We both were content with our choices. The place is very unique, right on the waterfront and highly popular with young people.

Image result for images paprioen copenhagen


We rode our bikes back down the waterfront, burning off some of our dinner. The daylight was gone at this point; the winds began to kick up so we decided to call it a night.

Tomorrow we fly out to Hamburg, Germany. We are looking forward to the remainder of our trip and what new and exciting adventures await us.

Day 4

Hamburg, Germany

Image result for city map hamburg

Today was a travel day. These two wild and crazy kids usually rent a car and take a scenic route to the next location or live on the edge and take a train.  But, in an effort to preserve time and energy, brilliantly masterminded by the Hubs –we opted to travel by plane.

Upon our departure from Copenhagen, I reflected on our stay and solidly came to the conclusion that in our 3 short days there- we had fully and completely absorbed the city and its unique culture. I pondered on an interesting Danish notion called Hygge- (pronounced hoo-guy) that our dear free walking tour guide Magnus had offered to us that very first day. The link below offers a good explanation of the very elusive, ambiguous concept-, but I will attempt to provide my spin on it as well.

Basically, Hygge is a feeling of intense wellbeing, family love, comradery and overall contentment. In the few short days we spent in Copenhagen, we started to see a common theme of this. Blond angelic blue eyed children in tow with their equally virtuous parents, demonstrating love, compassion and family unity. We saw it at Tivoli gardens-families three generations deep lined up, going on rides, spending the day together, void of what would appear to be any drama or discord. I realize this description is utopia, but since Denmark has been ranked the happiest country in the world three times in a row-I will allow the stats to speak for themselves. Regardless, at the time of the description, it was a moving target kind of idea, subjective in meaning and difficult to fully grasp-until it was actually witnessed in action. This, in turn has inspired me to fully embrace the Hygge philosophy incorporating its valuable benefits into the meaningful relationships in my life.

One last thing about Copenhagen, before we move on…A special shout out to Scandic Front Hotel –the staff really delivered. We approached the desk numerous times with questions, requests and suggestions. The team was always available and willing and helped in finding a laundromat, restaurant recommendations, calling a taxi , assisting in bike rental and greeting us every morning -adding much needed Hygge to our day.

We took a luxurious Mercedes Taxi to the Copenhagen airport. Most of our commuting had been on foot, bike or train. So, the lavish taxi ride was much appreciated and well worth the money. After a quick (40 minutes) and a stress-free airplane ride, we arrived in lovely Hamburg, Germany.

Our hotel Barcelo is just minutes from the central train station, which we took from the airport. As we exited the train station we had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Spilling out onto the street, a new world greeted us.  Homeless individuals slept on the ground, clothes and belongings piled at their feet-polluting the air with a thick fog of intoxicating, pungent tobacco. The safe bucolic world of Hygge and Copenhagen’s spotless streets quickly evaporated and I realized I needed to be alert, aware and secure of my surroundings. Well, no sooner did I have that thought, that a lovely, older Indian gentleman approached us, inquiring if we needed help with directions. I realized shamefully, angels come in all forms. Do not judge. Look past the grit-have compassion. That sweet man was able to aid us in directions leading us to our hotel.

We redirected ourselves, spilling out onto the opposite side of the train station. This was an entirely different scene. Busy worker bees hustling by, cell phones in hand, cyclists zipping past, store fronts such as Zara and Tiffany within my viewpoint. It was an alter universe from which I had just emerged from, but I was grateful to have seen it, creating an awareness and gratitude for the basic elements of life.

Just a few blocks and we arrived to our hotel Barcelo This hotel is simply stunning. It is perched within the center of the city; however, it is a quiet oasis in which no street noise is heard. It is a Spanish based hotel which is clearly displayed by its many Mediterranean details.

Image result for images hotel barcelo hamburg

Our room has everything one would need to provide comfort. The shower is beyond exquisite, providing a waterfall of loveliness akin to angel tears cascading down a hydroponic reservoir of Shangri-La divinity. The bed is a marshmallow cloud of tempurpedic heaven and the towels are spa-like thick, fluffy and the size of a bear skin rug. It is the small details that truly make the difference and offer luxury that ultimately enables a more enriched, peaceful and enjoyable vacation.

Image result for images of barcelo hamburg bathroom

After settling in, we ventured out to explore on foot. Fall is certainly in the air, providing a perfect backdrop that includes a rust colored carpet of leaves, a chill in the air and perfect accommodations for my well thought out and carefully planned autumn wardrobe. We walked to the City Hall which is in the main hub. Of note, in 1842 a fire essentially destroyed all of Hamburg, only to be rebuilt and incinerated by bombing again during World War II. Therefore, most of what is here today is from after that point. We walked around downtown, past fancy exclusive stores landing at a Starbuck’s.

After some downtime and hydration-we found ourselves embarking on a cruise along the Alster Canal We boarded a large barge that could easily hold 100 individuals. But, there were only 3 other people on board with us as well the captain and his crew. We boarded just in time for sunset. The cruise was 2 hours long and about $20 (US) per person. We were given a crappy English audio that was hard to hear and kept breaking, so we essentially made up our own stories.

The water way girth started out very wide- the width of a large lake, but as we continued the surroundings continually changed and waterway span varied to the narrowest at one point as the barge scraped across weeping willows. Friendly German residents waved with gusto from their waterfront Adirondacks, rowers resembling a Thomas Eakins portrait skimmed on by, swans bopped up and down rhythmically-literally going with the flow. The greenery and topography changed continuously, mansions 4 stories high in drastic German architecture lined up like toy soldiers all along the water flanking both sides. Bridge after bridge we passed, making note that there are over 2000 bridges along the Alster waterway. It was a truly pleasurable endeavor and I highly recommend adding this to your to do list if ever in Hamburg.

Growing hungry, our hotel offered us a suggestion for dinner right down the road. We were hoping for authentic German food.  We found ourselves at the cozy The décor of this establishment is simply charming. Old world European details dot the walls with cutesy wax famous figures throughout. German couples clanked and toasted large, intimidating beer steins as colorful plates of hearty German food emerged like an assembly line.

Hubs, in his Fatherland, adores German food. He was in his glory. He had pork tenderloin, in a thick, orange colored sauce with golden crispy buttery potatoes. I opted for a mozzarella tomato plate that was truly divine.  We shared earthy, robust hearty mushrooms –these mushrooms were heavenly little morsels of happiness. The best part of this meal was the price- roughly $35 (US).

After dinner, feeling full but energized, I went to the hotel gym and did some cardio. After that, I slept like a baby after my enchanting shower and dreamlike cushion of love.

Day 5

Hamburg, Germany

This morning after my blissful shower, we made our way to breakfast. Different, unique, delectable delights awaited us. A cornucopia of new world items, specifically Spanish ones peppered the tables. Exotic honeycomb temptingly dribbled, tortilla omelet, cuisine I have only seen in Spain was offered, vibrant fruit, extravagant cheeses, alluring pastries and more.

After breakfast we walked through the city, window shopping and burning off some of our breakfast. We made our way to the museum Hamburger Kunsthalle . The large building held galleries that seemed to go on forever. The art was abundant and exceptional. We purchased audio guides which offered helpful explanation and kept us engaged. We spent the whole afternoon there. At the end, we were physically depleted and mentally exhausted-but satisfied and pleased with the experience.

As the grey sky turned to raindrops, we made our way back to the hotel for some light respite. For dinner, we decided to roam the streets-uncertain of our dietary desires. As we gazed through one of the windows of the Rathaus (City Hall) we saw a dining room which housed beautiful fresco paintings and lavish chandeliers. Due to its apparent popularity and lack of better choices, we dined there-

Hubs had a traditional German dish called Sauerbraten- a marinated meat dish. With it were bowling ball size potato croquets and an overwhelming mound of magenta colored cabbage. I had a veggie burger (German style) which was thicker than a hockey puck on top of a bed of greens that could have fed a family of four. I clearly was not going to finish this monstrosity of a meal, so I asked the waitress for a to- go box. A confusing game of huh/what? followed between language barriers and waitress indifference. In the end- apparently, a charge is issued for such a request. The waitress kindly tried to offer it, but by then, interest had faded. No fault of the waitress. The food a B-C+, but how many times in my life can I see I dined at Hamburg’s city hall.

After dinner, with that lead bomb veggie burger wedged in my colon, I sought relief on the antiquated elliptical and then called it a night.

Day 6

Hamburg, Germany

Oh, glorious hotel shower. How you give me life. Your water pellets are like aquatic angels spraying sopranic melodies over my grateful dermis. Although, the set up in this hotel room is rather invasive for a modest couple-as the shower is smack in the middle of the room and the sink faces the bed. Not much room for vanity or privacy for that matter- keep this in mind if you find yourself booking a room at Hotel Barcelo in Hamburg.

After breakfast we made our way back to City Hall to meet up with another free tour A spunky Australian named Phillip took us and our small group of 8 through the streets of Hamburg weaving fascinating tales of history, current events and pop culture. On the tour we visited St. Michael’s Church , Old Elb Tunnel, Speicherstadt and Elb Philharmoni

The tour lasted 2 hours and offered a great deal of information, sobering facts regarding the voracious fire of 1842 and the horrifying accounts of the World War II firebombing which destroyed the city in 1942. All in all, the tour was well worth it-again, working on a tip basis and if ever in Hamburg-pencil this much needed activity into your schedule.

After the diverse group split up, we found ourselves in front of one of the restaurants Phillip mentioned in the tour. The Old Commercial Room from the outside it is pretty indistinct-however, inside it echoes history dating back to 1795. Our tour guide had pointed out that many celebrities frequent this establishment including their newly reappointed President Merkel. Additionally and more importantly, it is famous for its fish and meat dishes, particularly pickled herring and some sort of egg concoction that looked more like aquarium food for the seals instead of humans. You can imagine this vegetarian was at a loss- but fortunately they do have a few non-meat options. I settled on the creamy cucumber salad, playing it safe. It was unique and tasty and hit the spot.


The Hubs on the other hand, went full in-go big or go home style-eating a fillet tenderloin salad, hearty beer and apple strudel for dessert.  After a big belch and an ear to ear grin, he declared- “this was the best meal of the century for me.”


We made our way back to the hotel preparing for our evening’s event at the Ballet. For some, this kind of activity may not be your thing-but for us-this is an incredible treat-seeing the theater, viewing magnificent talent and indulging in a full evening of entertainment. We are almost certainly the only tourists that are ever at these venues.

The Staatsope Theater dates back to 1827. Several renovations took place after that and eventually once again it was completely destroyed in the fire-bombing air raids from World War II. The ballet we saw was Anna Karenina. The famous Tollstoy novel from 1878 was artistically and creatively adapted to a marvelous ballet. The orchestra was sublime. The ballet sequences were breathtaking. The presentation was 3.5 hours long but we were captivated every minute of it.

Walking back in the damp autumn air, with dewy glistening leaves on the sidewalk-we looked over the city of Hamburg in absolute delight and amazement. The twinkling city lights bounced off the water, as if winking back at us with gratitude. We see your true potential, we see your beauty.

Day 7&8

Hamburg, Germany

Day 7 in Germany brought us glorious sunshine. The past couple days in Hamburg had been grey, dreary and far from picturesque. These weather details did not preclude us from enjoying ourselves in the least. But, the sunny skies were a warm welcome and helped in forming some of our plans later on in the day.

After breakfast we made our way on foot to Mahnmal St. Niolai St. Nikolai Memorial is Hamburg’s most significant memorial that serves as a sober reminder of WWII and the catastrophic fallout from Hitler‘s dictatorship during 1933-1945 and subsequent destruction from the air raids on Hamburg in 1943.

The topic of WWII absolutely fascinates me and being in an area that is rich in this subject matter makes only sense to absorb every bit of knowledge that is available. Our tour guide from the free tour Phillip had pointed out the museum that is housed below in the basement of the church.

The church is no longer a functioning church as it was the target for the incendiary air bombing that took place in July of 1943. All that remains is a tower and in the ruins that were left- later become a museum of all the remnants left behind.


The first chapel was built on the site in 1195. In 1847 when it was completed it was the highest spire in the world. It still remains the highest in Hamburg today. As the first placard in the museum states so eloquently, “Pointing to the sky like a powerful finger, it stands today as a symbolic warning.”

We arrived just as the museum opened. We were the only ones there in the cold, quiet dwelling. The stillness offered an appropriate setting for such a somber subject. As we made our way through the history of the church, the noise level began to rise to an irritating, high pitched crescendo of 30 local teenagers. This annoying interruption seemed to last a long time. It undoubtedly encumbered our focus and became quite distracting. Eventually, a tour leader took over and his booming voice echoed in the open space, truly altering the experience. Somehow, we managed to block out the grating voice, but it seems to be a common theme on every trip- school age adolescents using these outings as a social event. On one hand, I commend school leadership for providing these enhanced educational options. On the other hand, careful planning, money and time went into our planning-and the indifference and inconsideration repeatedly seen by many of these youth aggravates me to no end.

We continued on and a timeline began to come into place regarding how, when and where the bombing took place. On screen commentary of actual survivors lend a terrifying component to this experience. In the end, the endeavor called Operation Gomorrah that lasted 4 days generated statistics that are staggering. 40,000 residents died, 900,000 were homeless and displaced.

One thing to note, I have witnessed this first hand and have observed it in previous trips as well to Germany. There appears to be a very palpable feeling of ownership with the atrocities that went on during the concentration camps, Hitler’s dictatorship and the futility of many of the evil acts performed on the people of Germany. As a Jew, I embrace this almost stoic kind of apology. This deference has provided me with a peek into the strength of the Hamburg residents and has allowed me to understand them in a more clear way. I will touch on this further on my wrap up of this trip.

Included in the price of admission, one can also take the precarious looking elevator up to the top -80 meters for an obstructed view of Hamburg. It is not the best outlook, but does offer a bird’s eye peak of the city below. We spent a few minutes craning our necks and straining our eyes snapping pictures that will surely disappoint upon our return home.

After all that heavy material, we lightened things up by making our way to Miniature Wunderland – This unique and popular establishment- is basically a 6 year old boy’s dream-composed of 4 floors containing miniature “worlds” with complete railroads, small airplanes, cars and really everything and anything you can think of. No detail is too small and one world flows into the next. Small children, older adults and everyone in between are hunched over the displays, eyes big, mouths open and captivated by all the senses. Some of the elaborate exhibitions were Las Vegas, The Alps, Switzerland, Rome, and of course Germany as well as a fully operating miniature airport. We spent a ridiculous time, to the Hubs dismay- in the gift shop, stocking up on overpriced knick- knacks which is now currently threatening the restricted weight of my suitcase for home.

From there, we exited with the sun beaming down on us. Due to the fabulous weather, we chose to make our way to the harbor, walking through the posh neighborhoods that led up to it. We passed by the fancy new an 800 million Euro project comprised of a hotel, a concert hall and shops. We chose not to go in as it more impressive being viewed from the outside.

After lounging on a bench for some time, we made our way back to the hotel. For dinner we opted to re-visit Gasthaus An Der Alster from a previous night. I replicated the same meal of tomato and mozzarella, Hubs went with an authentic Wiener schnitzel. We have learned this lesson before that it is never the same experience the second time around. However, it was close to the hotel and hit the spot.

Day 8

After 3 days, any hotel breakfast no matter how good, gets monotonous-same irritating guests, same cheese, same sneering waitress. When this occurs, it is either time to change locations or in our case-it’s our cue that the end of the trip is near. After breakfast, we made our way to the bike rental Stadtrad- After numerous, frustrating attempts and profuse cursing, we were able to figure out how to rent the bikes through a computer kiosk at the bike station. Why they need your birth date is beyond me? Still unclear as well of the cost of this new found love of yours truly.

Regardless, we figured out the complicated system and off we were in the damp cool air. We made our way to the Alster and proceeded to loop around the beautiful bike path all along the water. We were up close and personal with the same view we experienced on our boat cruise the first day we arrived. We passed glorious, genteel mansions, the embassies, rowers, and many, many ducks. We spent the entire afternoon circling the beautiful path making our way back into town.

We dropped off the bikes. At this point, the city was hopping. Throngs of teenagers, families, and couples were out in full force getting their shop on. Our final stop was Karstadt . This was a giant department store with everything one would ever need. We got lost in the gourmet chocolate section for an insane amount of time.

We made our way back to the hotel. After another visit to the hotel elliptical, we made our way to Indian for dinner. Just a few blocks from the hotel we dined on some tame and slightly unmemorable Indian cuisine at The King of India – a cozy and crowded Indian restaurant recommended by the hotel. After dinner, rain was falling pretty steady and the sky was black. We called it an early night as tomorrow we return to Copenhagen via train then back to reality from there.

Day 9- Final day

Hamburg to Copenhagen

Today was our final day of travel. We always knew this day- anyway we cut it would be long, on the miserable side and not easy. We chose to fly to Hamburg from Copenhagen due to some of the complicated barriers. However, flying back to Copenhagen seemed impossible due to times, availability and other issues. Driving was out of the question-so a train seemed our only solution.

Traveling by train has always been intimidating to both of us as there are many language barriers and instructions not translatable to us. Many of our fears came to fruition as we had expected.

We left Hamburg mid-morning with the sun shining the brightest we had seen since our arrival. Schlepping 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks and loads of overpriced items that yours truly had to have along the way-we made our way to the train station. We waited 2 hours for our track to display on the board.

Making our way to the track, bumbling our way down 2 flights of steps, then in front of the train to wait for another 30 minutes. During that time, savvy people around us started to gather in front of certain doorways, none near us.

As the doors released, we bum rushed the train entrance attempting to get the first seats available. Well, there is something you must understand about Germany. They intensely take pride in rule following. This is a hard concept to understand to two stubborn knuckle heads who don’t know, understand or follow the rules (mainly again because not knowing them).

So, as luck would have it-our $200 Euro train tickets (actually more than the 45 minute plane ride) in which would last us 5 hours offered us a ticket, but no SEAT RESERVATION. As we lumbered our way down the aisle with our girthy, plump bags, knocking innocent bystanders over and clopping them in the head with our equally overweight backpacks, one by one we were shunned as if we had a scarlet letter engraved on us. Each seat was reserved.

Basically, “low life’s” like us -are not welcome. We went car to car until we reached the end-Hubs sweating, me in full blown “Jersey Girl” mode.  “What the hell kind of system is this?” I barked as I swung from seat to seat trying to understand these ridiculous rules and circumstances. Eventually, we were shamefully sequestered like refugees on a raft to the entrance of the train, perched up against our now cumbersome luggage.

As I squatted on the dirty floor of the train to make my home for the next couple of hours, I whined in my best “Jersey Girl” bravado to the very large and in charge, intimidating German woman collecting the train tickets. She snarled something equally irritating towards me and about me; I am pretty certain not complimentary. We eventually accepted our fate succumbing to the floor, nesting in my backpack, like a dog trying to circle their bed.

We were actually some of the luckier ones, as surrounding the “Loser Pit” were individuals forced to stand the whole time. One gentleman in particular who tried to seek our assistance in what his ticket said. Pretty sad when someone is asking US for help. Later on, eventually this gentleman found a seat as we entered Denmark many hours later, only to be escorted off by a border patrol guard for not having a passport. His shoulders slouched as he went arm in arm with the guard never to be seen again. Our misfortune dimmed to this poor guy’s.

After a couple hours, we were approached by a woman who informed us that we would have to depart off the train as we had to now board on a ferry. We had no idea this was to occur, but fortunately this ferry shortened the trip several hours.

We disembarked the train and loaded onto a large ferry where we sat on the top deck. The sea gleamed below as seagulls trailed along us. The ferry lasted 45 minutes and then like cattle, we were shuffled back to the train, where Hubs and I quickly plopped our tuckasses in 2 of the 10 un-reserved seats. Not as fancy as the reserved seats but a far cry better than perched on a step. Apparently, the train was overbooked by many people, but somehow after the ferry the train appeared to be less full.

Eventually, we made our way back to Central Station in Copenhagen, which gratefully we were now familiar with. You may wonder- why back and forth between the countries? If you are actually reading this and paying attention to our whereabouts…

We always purchase round trip airline tickets first and then build the trip around that in piece meal. It adds a bit of structure to the trip but really offers us much freedom to do with what we want within the confines of those days. Our initial plan was to go North up to Sweden and Stockholm. But as we created our trip, we noticed on a map the closeness in proximity Hamburg was to Copenhagen. Therefore, we worked our trip around that.

One thing I want to say regarding expectations verses reality. In regards to the train-we actually envisioned a romantic dining car, me with white silk gloves and Hubs smoking a cigar (he does not smoke and I hate things covering my hands) but we imagined this old world experience where we would be playing cards (we did not bring cards) as we viewed the beautiful coastal cities as the train whirled on by.


Image result for images of people with unreserved seats on a train


Image result for images dining in a fancy dining car on a train


I kid, I kid…

However, I have learned on these trips to adapt to the challenges that we face. As the plans change, I need to adjust my thinking, perspective and acclimate to what is provided. I did not do this gracefully or with pride as my “Jersey Girl” wrath was unleashed on Frau train lady. I am a work in progress regarding these shortcomings.

We made our way on foot for the 30 minute journey, luggage in tow bouncing along the forgiving cobblestone. Eventually, we made it to our residence for only 12 hours-back in the same neighborhood, directly next to our former hotel Scandic Front- The Copenhagen Admiral hotel This very unique dwelling is an old 18th century warehouse with many interesting details and armory. Unfortunately, our time is so limited that I will not elaborate.

Image result for images copenhagen admiral hotel

Hunger had settled in our bellies from a long day with only light snacking. We found ourselves at a mediocre Thai restaurant indulging in hot coconut soup. As we walked back to our hotel down the streets of Copenhagen one final time, we were grateful for an encore loop of the city.

Copenhagen is a splendid city which much to offer. The people are friendly, happy (Hygge-remember) and very easy going. Many speak English and are accommodating in many ways.

Hamburg is a real juxtaposition in cultures. I found the German people to be rigid and rule abiding, but stoic, brave and hard working. When I tally up their misfortunes that have been bestowed upon them through the years, I understand their strong nature. Between the horrific fire and the firebombing in 1943, the great people of Hamburg have learned to rebuild time and time again. Hamburgers are strong, resigned and focused. They are straight shooters, clearly defining the rules and always obeying them.

I have to end this now as my sleep hours are diminishing. I hope you have enjoyed this fall’s installment of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase. Please join us in March as we travel to Kenya Africa on safari.

Love, rules and Hygge-


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Nashville July 2017

Day 1 of 3 

As the late great Minnie Pearl once so eloquently said- How-dee and greetings from the rolling hills of Tennessee. Chances are if you didn’t grow up knowing Mr. Roper, that pesky short fella yelling “the plane, the plane” or memorized the lyrics to Laverne & Shirley, then you will not know the fancy jargon from Hee- Haw or the famous catch phrase. But, let’s move on. There is always Google and you can catch up…

minnie pearl

 It’s been a while and for good reason. A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase abandoned the usual spring vacation this year in lieu of an aggressive campaign of fitness and health promotion. Well, hard work pays off and the Gods have been shining down on this girl -because the pounds have shed little by little and life is certainly looking up.

Before                                                                    Now



Honoring the Hubs and this Girl’s 23 year union of love and the celebration of 5 years married- prompted a spontaneous domestic voyage to Nashville. For this seasoned pair-interestingly enough we have never been- and what better way to launch the renaissance of this new enriched life but a good ole country adventure.  

Leaving Florida at O’ dark thirty this diabolical duo set out for an easy 1 hour and 22 minute flight to the land of the Volunteers. 

The Nashville airport is quite unique. Trendy colorful stores and energetic bars tempt even the most focused traveler. Guitars and hokey country memorabilia lead the sojourn to baggage claim- as acoustically crooning amateurs, strum melodically inspired songs about heartbreak and a cowboy’s life.  

Our journey begins with a Tennessee native Uber driver serving as our chauffeur to the main hub of “the Gulch” – our residence for the next 3 days. His thick southern drawl and southern gentile manner was pleasing to the ears as his words dripped thick like honey. 


A quick 20 minutes later we were at our destination The Thompson This trendy sleek architecturally sexy structure is an 18 floor boutique hotel chic in design, nestled strategically in a popular neighborhood with high price real estate restaurants and expensive stores.   

We were greeted with a “Nashvillian” friendliness that I soon became familiar with. The soothing smile and charm of the front desk attendant inquired the reason for our trip and I informed him it is our 5 year anniversary. Well- later on – this benign comment and subtle nod would result in a surprise bottle of sparkling wine, fancy chocolate and an endearing card hand written from the manager. This kind gesture was one of many details that separated this hotel from any other.



Due to early arrival our room was not ready. But, the charming attendant graciously stored our bags so we were left untethered to explore the city. The hubs suffering from caffeine withdrawal was in luck as a Starbucks was adjacent to the hotel. Working millennials and Victoria Secret model types in colorful spandex fresh from barre class steadily streamed in while the hubs energy began to perk up courtesy of Starbursts dark bold. 

After adequate coffee consumption, the plan was formulated. With a speedy Uber request, another car was waiting for us curbside. Once again, a lively conversation took place en route to The Hermitage



The Hermitage is the residence of former seventh President of the United States and General Andrew Jackson. This top rated presidential site is a quick 20 minutes out of the city. Located on over 1,100 lush acres- it is a multi-layered informative experience. As one enters the calming plantation, unassuming deer lazily munch along the perimeter. The admission price offers the museum which is chuck full of interesting facts, as well as a tour of the mansion and all the grounds. We were granted discounts (even though student discount specified 8-13 years old- I told you this fitness thing is really paying off for me…).  

The tour begins with a timeline of Jackson’s life. Orphaned at 13 years old, his accomplishments are nothing short of inspiring. He was a war hero and revered almost celebrity status. As he transitioned into Presidency, many of his practices that he instituted remain active and integral to the current system today. Regardless of what side of the political fence you reside, the love and admiration unanimously honored to this leader was refreshing. However, as one continues through the progression of his life, presidency and endeavors- he had his share of haters and adversaries as well.  

After touring museum, we made our way onto the grounds. The plush emerald green lawn traversed as far as the eye could see. Dotted by cabins, workers quarters and the occasional horse drawn carriage (for an additional $11) we made our way exploring on foot. We eventually made our way to the mansion.  

Greeted by coquettish ladies in colonial garb, that frankly looked itchy and flammable- we were given strict instructions on what to do as well as what not to do, touch or disturb once in the mansion. Obviously these rules are in place for good reason- to maintain the authenticity of the dwelling. Ironically, almost all rules were broken upon entry.  

As our group spilled out of the house, the sky opened up, black clouds released a monsoon like downpour. Hubs and your truly conveniently were perched on the covered porch for the deluge. Chomping on bootleg nuts pilfered from home, we watched the less fortunate run for cover.


As the sun dried the wet earth, we explored the grounds culminating the tour with an enchanting stroll through the garden. The flowers were in full blossom. The aromatic smells perfumed the air as bumble bees danced from bud to bud. Unfortunately most of our experiences in gardens through the years have been less than impressive as it is commonly off season. Viewing anemic weeds struggling to envision their potential-because of this, we were even more appreciative of the rich, robust multisensory display. The Hermitage is a real “must see” if you have the time to explore outside the city. It was an entertaining afternoon well worth it.  

Fully satisfied and now Jackson experts we summoned our next Uber. On the journey back to the hotel, hot, tired and fueled only by nuts, we discussed dinner possibilities with our driver. He made a few recommendations- one of which we chose.  

Back at the hotel, we were able to access our beautiful room. The room was clean, comfortable and actually quite lovely. Ceiling to floor windows created a dramatic bird’s eye view of the hip restaurants below. Succumbing to exhaustion at this point, we allowed ourselves a brief indulgence of rest.  

From there, re-energized we walked down the 2 flights to the convenient hotel fitness center. An adequate offering of cardio machines flanked the walls. Fresh cucumber water, clean towels and tempting apples were available as well. We adapted our usual exercise regimen to our new setting allowing respite for future potential guilty pleasures later. 

After showering in the spa- like bathroom equipped with fluffy robes and heavenly towels we ventured out to Little Octopus just steps from our hotel. If you recall this was at the recommendation of Uber driver #3 if you are keeping track. He neglected to leave out one minor detail –that the cuisine is Caribbean inspired. My palate is as refined as a toddler’s-finicky and feisty with a loathing for all things spicy.

This hipster establishment screams vegan snobbery combined with tiny plates that one feels obligated to “ooh and ahh” at. The limited menu is full of big words, but miniscule portions as they are tapa based. For me and my caloric restrictions this worked out perfect. Additionally, I am vegetarian so in theory this menu should have sufficed.  

I settled on a beet salad that was fresh, healthy with a hint of an undefinable earthiness and grit that settled in my canines. The hubs had a clam dish that prompted a hidden talent of puppetry as he played with the carcass shells serenading his wife through traquilism- like skills. The dish that followed still riles me up- as how does one ruin perfectly good brocollini? The chef made it so spicy that one is rendered speechless with numb lips, an inactive oral orifice and slightly traumatized with various stages of PTSD- by just the thought of red pepper flakes and pepper infused oil. No photographic evidence is available as the Hubs took advantage of my incoherent stupor and consumed the remainder of the vile vegetable. I admit I exaggerate a bit and in full disclosure-the Hubs disagrees with most of this bloated diatribe- but I stand by my keen and insightful analysis.


After dinner, we did some harmless window shopping in stores frankly I had no business being in, displaying styles for a much younger, cooler and perhaps richer version of myself. From there, we returned back to the hotel, which was now in full throttle Friday night mating season mode. The hotel is apparently the meeting Mecca for all the “Cool Kids” these days.  

Entering on this Friday evening, the lobby is alive with action. An intimidating line coiled around the reception desk, all in an effort to get to the elevator to get to the 18th floor to get to  La Jackson – the rooftop bar which was our final destination as well… 

For some odd reason, I had this silly notion La Jackson would be quiet, romantic, with just the illumination of the moon twinkling in the Hub’s luminescent blue eyes. Soft music, candles and strangely the summer child hood scent of honey blossoms in the air. Well, get this image out of your head- because it was none of this. Now, granted the magnificent views from up above of the Nashville skyline were breathtaking. But, as we shoved our way through the 20 something crowd, self-involved phone scrolling monsters stared blankly at their phones. The combination of hundreds of conversations taking place at once whirled together into an over stimulating frenzy of sound. As we hugged the side of the glass partition, which separated us from death, we took in the stillness of the evening below. And for one moment of solitude- it was just Hubs and I and 23 years of glorious memories. The gravity of the time passed and the time ahead of us laid heavily in my heart-and for that split instant-no other people were on that glorious balcony with us.


After that, we ventured down to our room for a good night’s slumber.    

Day 2 of 3 

Taking full advantage of the extra hour earned from Central Standard Time, I arose early and busted butt at the gym. All with a secondary gain of being in line early at Biscuit Love  Yesterday, in our room, we were highly entertained lazily eyeing the crowds outside our hotel, particularly on the steady, rather ridiculous line that remained all day long outside a rather indistinct, unimpressive restaurant- Biscuit Love. Well, we just had to find out what the hubbub was…It didn’t matter that I am carb restricted, gluten free and a biscuit would be my caloric capacity for the week. I had to know the deal- even through osmosis and living vicariously through the hubs.


 So, after the gym, just as the sky turned black and rain began to pelt down, we took the long journey 50 feet away and joined the ever growing cue. Now, just know if you go to this establishment there are rules. You must know in advance apparently what you are ordering, be prepared and don’t waste time. It is the equivalent of the famous Seinfeld soup Nazi-just replaced with Biscuits. 

After a rather short wait, we were urged to make our selection. I ordered a rather unmemorable omelet that lacked any character. Hubs had a version of eggs benedict with biscuits. Neither entrée overly excited us-which was good because the recovery phase of biscuit withdrawal cannot be pleasant. 

Evidently, the “bonuts” a hybrid somewhere between a donut and a biscuit are all the rage. I will say, for the entire 3 days, there was a steady, rambunctious line that only disappeared during closing times. 

We once again beckoned another Uber to Carl Van Vecten Gallery on the Fisk University Campus A sprawling campus void of any activity, due to summer, early hours and rain felt a bit eerie. Some concern began to resonate as we were dropped off in a completely empty parking lot with little signs of life.  

We waited and waited and waited a bit more. Then, we started to concoct a plan B. At that precise moment an eager, short of breath gentleman came running towards us. It turns out he was flooded out of his house and he himself had to come by Uber. Apologizing profusely, he waived both entrance fees.  

We were the only ones in the museum. We leisurely perused the odd paintings consisting of most famously Georgia O’Keefe and some others from her era. All in all there are probably 20 paintings and an exhibition in the basement. Nonetheless, we entertained ourselves and embraced having the whole place to ourselves.


Guess what we did next? You guessed it! We requested an Uber. We were transported to the famous region Broadway.  When you think Nashville-this to me -is what it really is. Good old fashioned grit, country music, honky-tonk. One area consists of music city and it encapsulates entertainment of every venue. The common theme is a distinct feeling of wanting to hose oneself off after entering some of the establishments. Now, please understand –it is only 1100 AM in the morning at this point. Our first stop was the Johnny Cash Museum We never made it past the gift shop. A little speed shopping performed; we got the gist of it, but couldn’t commit to it- so we moved on. To be noted-The Patsy Cline Museum  is on top of Johnny Cash… 

Leaving there we walked past barbeque restaurants boasting the best, most authentic and tastiest. Boot stores with penetrating hide aromatics pouring out onto the streets. The intense staccato of struggling musicians with pitiful desperation thick in every note echoed in the street. Powerful odors so offensive at times-breathing was painful permeated the humid air. This was a complete juxtaposition with the rambunctious cookie cutter bachelorette brigades with tacky sash’s and hokey veils screaming in frantic euphoria. Goofy hashtag names and clone like bridal parties celebrating their final hours of independence by pedaling frenziedly 3 miles an hour through the traffic-all the while singing female empowerment songs at the top of their lungs. If nothing else, this served as incredible amusement. 

We continued to walk as the humidity hung over us like a thick blanket. Exhaustion and hunger began to settle in and anchor us down. It was at that moment we spotted Puckett’s This eatery is one of the highlights of this trip. The crowded establishment was teeming with eager patrons, very civilized anxiously waiting for a table. The smells, unlike the hideousness of Broadway were sweet, smoky, hickory and that indescribable essence of barbeque. 

Hubs had a brisket taco salad. Mine was a delicious black bean burger, unique and fulfilling in every way- which was accommodated over a small salad for me. Sadly but wisely, the Hubs suppressed his desire for the cobbler-which he still regrets. If in Nashville- I really suggest you try to make it there. Apparently, we were lucky to get seated so quickly as its popularity is evident.

 Once again, another Uber escorted us to back to our hotel. After some rest, we prepared for the big event- The Grand Ole Opry Although, country music is not our forte we felt it essential to participate as this captures the true heart of Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry is situated on a massive campus with a hotel, a mall and a movie theater The original Grand Ole Opry was at the Ryman Theater In the 1990’s it was moved. The Ryman still has performances and I regret on this trip not making it there. It is considered hallowed halls with country greats such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. 

The Uber dropped us off at the Opry Mall. The place was packed with eager shoppers on bargain hunts. No exception for yours truly. Some mindless browsing kept us busy momentarily. We made our way to the entrance to The Grand Ole Opry. It was a plethora of activity. A stellar seniored band belted out amazing tunes revving up the crowd.


From there, we made our way to the auditorium. There truly is not a bad seat in the house. Spread out like a church with pews in a circular ring, it looped around the stage. As the curtain went up, the stage glowed indicating a live radio stage. Mics strategically placed like land mines creating an auditory symphonic delight.


 The effort of maintaining the authenticity by honoring the tradition and maintaining the same format since its radio debut in 1974 is apparent. It is separated in 4 segments with numerous varied live music acts in each part. The wizardry of the guitar playing, the octave tiers demonstrated and the true raw talent was really unbelievable. The commonality of each performer was their gratitude for being there, the symbolism of achievement and their genuine love for their craft. My favorite was from a band which I had never heard of before The Steel Woods who played Straw in the Wood . All in all, the night was pretty darn incredible and an absolute must if in Nashville. 

Another Uber schlepped our butts back to The Gulch. We stopped across from our Hotel at Burger Republic Some uninspiring pub fare provided lackluster nourishment as we finished the night out.


 Day 3 of 3

Sleeping in just a bit in the comfortable womblike state of cozy room was luxurious. No alarm clock, no barking dog, no obligations. It really is the ultimate pleasure extracted from a vacation. However, this lazy lull was fleeting as we promptly made our last visit to the gym. After a good workout, we packed and prepared to depart from our wonderful stay at The Thompson. 

Some Starbucks had and final preparations for our last day. We were on a mission to find the Green Line which is a free bus that loops around the city. Apparently, no one and I mean NO ONE knows where this thing is, what it is, where it goes and how often. We chased this elusive green mirage over and over, continually missing it just by seconds. Exasperated and ready to give, the green vision appeared before us. Hopping on in victory, we soon learned this bus really does not go anywhere of much use. The bus driver offered us helpful information and suggestions and eventually dropping us off at Bicentennial Park.     

The park displays Tennessee’s history including a revolving globe, a World War II Memorial, a 95-Bell Carillon playing energetic Tennessean songs and abundant Fountains. On the grounds as well is a thriving farmer’s market -which is apparently a hotspot for the constant Hop on Hop off bus.


An Uber once again took us to our lunch of choice. We refueled quickly at PF Changs growing sadly aware that our Nashville extravaganza was coming to an end. We crossed the busy intersection for our final destination-Centennial Park which includes the Parthenon

The park is situated directly across the street from the prestigious Vanderbilt College. Standing erect and center protecting its people is the Parthenon. It is a stunning re-creation of the same one from ancient Greece. It stands boldly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park. Inside the structure is a museum as well, which unfortunately time constraints did not allow for the viewing of these treasures.

We circled the structure and made our way on a path that snaked around the park. Trees shaded us as the sun smoldered in the sun heat. We made our way around a serene lake. We ended our walk in a sunken garden. Colorful flowers in bloom showed off their petals in a hue of flamboyant pride.  

Our final Uber ride delivered us to the hotel to retrieve our bags and head to the airport for our departure back home. Nashville was a true surprise. Having heard of its growing popularity over the years, I naively thought one needs to be a country music fan to appreciate. Many years ago, I dismissed its place in the world of culture, art, food and “my kind of entertainment”. Well, I now know how misguided I was.

Nashville is a renaissance town. It offers it all. Family friendly, raunchy drunk debauchery bachelorette “Nash-vegas” style hijinks, world class music, divvy bars, barbeque for days…Not to mention the versatility and diversity of Tennessee itself. With its origins deep in valor and President Andrew Jackson settling his roots close by it has always been a symbol for an altruistic spirit born in the concept of honor, pride and sacrifice in the form of volunteerism. As my plane embarked for the journey back home, and I viewed the Nashville skyline as the pink summer sun set, I had sadness in my heart of saying goodbye to Nashville. The people have a Southern calmness with a country western spirit. They are salt of the earth, good old fashioned values in a not too fancy way. You may wonder how I have this analysis in my short time…In every single one of those 13 Uber rides, a commonality existed-they were all local and native Nash-villians. Each Uber driver shared a piece of their life with us. They gave us advice, recommendations, and for just a brief moment in time-made us feel we were the only ones that mattered. They asked questions, listened and showed genuine interest. Most importantly, they represented their city with pride, love and loyalty. Thank you Nashville for a memorable 5 year anniversary- you have set the bar high!

Nashville TOP 5:

(5) The Thompson- amazing Hotel &  The Gulch

(4) The Hermitage

(3) Puckett’s Lunch- Yum…

(2) Uber

(1) Grand Ole Opry

We will reunite at the end of September when The Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase travel to Copenhagen and Hamburg, Germany. And, stay tuned for March 2018-hint: African Safari!

Love & Nashvillian sweet dreams,





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Tubing On Rainbow River June 2017

Torture vs. Treat


Every square inch of my body is screaming holy sunburn. My muscles feel like I ran a marathon. I’m emotionally depleted & exhausted.
So, here’s the deal… let this be a cautionary tale. Tubing down a lovely Florida river. Our place of choice- Thousands of people do it all summer. I have never. I was obsessed with doing this. Well apparently here are some helpful tips to offer.

First, when getting on the tram that drops you off into the river- listen to the goofy guy on the speaker, explicitly telling you that the stopping point is the tiki hut. And, husband- a tiki hut is not the same thing as a pagoda. So, when you feel like you have missed spot and you ask ” where is the pagoda?” People look at you as if you need to return to the senior center.
Next tip- very important. Please sneak a protein bar in your cleavage. 6 hours is a long time to go with no food. And shove a credit card in that cleavage as well.
Alright, are you taking notes- because this is most important…sitting in a friggin round slippery snug object for hours at a time is pure torture, and may invoke panic attacks that cause you to curse profusely and sporadically flop out of ones snug slippery plastic death device now clinging to it while fighting currents as strangulating seaweed strands make their way into your vulnerable crotch.
While you are fighting the current, sun screen that you bootlegged in now is just a nuisance weighing you down and no longer is a priority as both hands are literally keeping you afloat – hence keeping you slightly alive.
As the miles stretch, your skin sizzles, hunger knocking at the door like an angry neighbor- all that is left is a microcosm of hope that one day- maybe you will see your doggies again.
Clusters of redneck, beer drinking, sub eating tethered 6 in a row tubers float on by, smoking their cigarettes- not knowing where the friggin pagoda is!
A mirage of land suddenly appears after 6 hours. As you stumble onto ground, like a shipwrecked fool entering bewildered into the civilized world- the horrible realization occurs to you- that the stopoff- pagoda- aka- tiki hut that tram driver mumbled into a shoddy speaker 6 hours was overshot 4 hours ago. Hence, the water soaked receipt you have for 2 hour tubing ride.
As we plead our story,  plastic nooses anchoring our neck- what do we do? How do we get back?
Well, my folks- that is when you recall- you have no phone, no money, no credit card. Car, car, car. Well- lucky enough for us- a taxi was right around the corner to schlep our soaking, sandy sad selves to our car to get our debit card to go to a bank to accrue a $4.00 fee, to pay $40 to go back to our friggin car.
As we dragged our weary, exhausted burnt bodies into the car, we took a tally of ailments we encountered or suffered purely endured by this adventure.
Included but not limited to: burnt skin, dehydration, hypoglycemia, charlie horse leg cramps, water logged ears most likely with some incurable flesh eating bacteria to be diagnosed with at a later date, nausea, sea sick, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, possibly dislocated in a few spots and incessant tearing of Hubby’s eyes the entire drive home evoking an immense amount of anxiety for yours truly.
So, that my folks was our glorious day of tubing on Rainbow river…..


PS. Not one picture was had due to no phone.


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Los Angeles, California Trip Report 2016

Los Angeles, California Trip Report

November 2016

Greetings from the sunny Golden state of California. A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase are keeping it local in the USA for this short weekend excursion.  Los Angeles, our home base for this quick getaway has been on the wish list for a long time. Exceptional airfare and an impromptu decision was all that was needed for this traveling team.

An uneventful, ungodly early flight landed us in this luminous land of sea and mountain.  Residing from Florida, this duo understands the power of the sun. However, the intensity and powerful rays here is a different kind of potency that radiates the scalp and tickles one’s cheeks with commanding strength.

We picked up our black, shiny Chevrolet convertible Camaro, top down, navigator out and ready to tackle the 6 lane traffic of the 405. This Girl thought she knew traffic-however, car congestion of this sort, merging and all sorts of automobile trickery was a whole new sort of madness never before witnessed.


Nevertheless, this was little concern as the blue skies, earthy mutton colored mountains in the distance and that beaming powerful sunshine bounced off our vulnerable heads. Time had little meaning as vacation officially had commenced and we had a mission to find our residence for the next 3 days –The Los Angeles Athletic Club . 

The LAAC is located in the heart of downtown LA. This historic building dates back to the 1880’s and evokes a feeling of old world charm mixed with vintage athletic royalty.  Antique sports paraphernalia adorn the walls, a decorative “bragging rights” of sorts. Included in this unique hotel is also a pool and a gym. Sadly, this amenity has been unutilized due to time constraints.  However, during booking this hotel this was a nice selling point.

Throughout the hotel, there is no lack of attention to detail to the furnishings and charm of this establishment. Our room located on the 12th floor is cozy, large and quite pleasing. The view attempts to highlight the LA skyline, if it weren’t for the obstructive scaffolding directly in its way. Regardless, this respite is specifically for utilitarian needs, sleep, rest, eat and shower.  All of which, this hotels exceeds on.

After dropping off our bags, we ventured out to china town The sun was beaming down powerful and strong luminescent beams of California sunshine. Our journey was a pretty much straight line through the urban corridor of downtown Los Angeles. We passed Hispanic owned shops with vibrant colors and authentic music spilling out onto the sidewalk. Next, we passed the governmental section- the famous OJ Simpson courthouse, unique street artwork decorated the otherwise white wash boring structures.

Approaching china town a raised giant dragon straddling both sides of the street ominously welcomed the newcomer. Hunger began to grumble curiously as the smells of foreign fragrances permeated the air. Doing a quick Yelp search we settled on a restaurant -Yang Chow We were still on Eastern Standard Time and it was fairly early for dinner, however this place was packed. The friendly waiter offered us complimentary tea, which I have not seen in over a decade. The menu was inviting and tantalizing and conjured up old school dishes such as dumplings and shrimp toast. Which, we did in fact order. Be warned though, the dumplings are made from scratch and took 20 minutes to bring tableside.

Long, ropey flavorful vegetarian noodles and Mu Shu pork served as our entrees. These flavorful and beautifully presented dishes were well worth the wait and quenched our Chinese cuisine desire we were yearning for.

From dinner, bellies full and MSG coursing through our veins, we lounged outside sipping coffee at the local Starbucks. This young trendy area was teeming with millennials and eager youth ready to start the weekend. We sat there as the California autumn chill began to settle in. We made our way slowly back to the hotel remaining on Florida time and tuckering out pretty rather prematurely.

The next morning we rose rather early excited to get to know the area and see the sights. A complimentary breakfast was included in our stay which was hearty, fresh and delicious. We feasted on our breakfast in the art deco dining room as the sun began to stream in through the windows.

We got in our convertible, top down, windows open and soft rock blasting through the radio. We drove through the alarmingly congested traffic – that would become the theme of the short packed 2 day trip. Peeking out in the distance, the famous Hollywood sign waved at us as if inviting us to play for the day. A fairly swift uneventful drive landed us on the Sunset Strip We walked a couple blocks as the sun began to burn our shoulders, eventually making our way to the walk of fame

The 1.3 miles of Hollywood stars bookended both sides of the street.  Names plastered on each one, beckoning childhood memories and nostalgia. They are in random order, leapfrogging the entire length of the sidewalk. All along the way, hokey, touristy stores promising the most authentic Hollywood souvenirs tempting even the savviest of travelers, including yours truly.

We eventually made it to the Mecca of Hollywood-Grauman’s Chinese Theater A multifaceted display of United Nations of tourists crisscrossing every demographic spilled out onto the sidewalks and surrounding area. On the concrete were engraved sentiments from celebrities spanning 9 decades. Hand prints embedded in the pavement served as a witness to the testament of time.

We made our way back to the car with still half of our day still remaining. Our next destination was the Getty Center .  This was truly the sole purpose for the entire trip. Having been to a great majority of the most spectacular art museums in the world, including The Louvre, The Hermitage, The Prado and The Met-this had been one of our last conquered museums on our list.

Getting to the Getty is a bit misleading- the first step is an underground garage for parking-then a tram finishes the journey by scaling up a hill to the actual compound. As one steps off the tram, the campus is a bit overwhelming. It is quite expansive and includes 4 buildings all comprised of masterpieces of exceptional art as well as gardens overlooking the valley below.

The Getty itself is free and the only fee is for parking which is $15. Free audio is also included and truly balances out the abundance of art with understandable and interesting explanation. We began our exploration in Renaissance Art and moved our way sequentially through the time periods.

It is an extraordinary display of artists and stands up to any world class museum we have visited. After several hours, we decided to take a break. The museum was packed with people, but the crowds moved through fast and the vast space easily accommodated the multitude of people. We sat outside in the pleasant air, the sun remained bright and sky was an effervescent blue. We ate healthy salads, as children chased each other, lovers kissed and friends laughed.

We continued our trek through the museum as the sun began to fade. We ended our visit walking on the grounds, rehashing our favorite pieces. The emerald green lawn outlining the complex to the edge causing an elusive image, as the lights from the valley below began to twinkle in the dusk.

Driving back to the hotel, feet sore, brain macerated from overuse and overall exhaustion we debated over dinner. A coupon and a suggestion from the hotel was all we needed. We found ourselves a stone’s throw from the hotel at Chica’s Tacos Healthy, organic ingredients with essentially zero guilt were the main components on the limited menu. We gobbled up tacos comprised of unique concoctions offered with eye stinging, nose burning, gut twisting spicy sauces that make you want to slap your mama (sorry mom-just a phrase).


The next morning (our last day) we piled in our sturdy convertible, top down as the cool morning air goose bumped our arms. We drove up the Pacific Coast Highway with really no plan. We drove up the winding road that hugged the Pacific Ocean as scaling mountains shadowed over us on the opposite side. The cool air blew through my auburn curls, twisting them into tangled dreadlocks. We stopped at a Malibu Starbuck’s, me half hoping a brief Kaitlyn Jenner encounter or even settling for a Kardashian sighting. None of which occurred.

The Malibu Starbuck’s was popular with good-looking people- all toned, healthy and bronzed. We lingered there a while until fully fueled by caffeine and envy. We continued to drive on the PCH determined to take this as far as it could take us. In our case, as far as the Hubs bladder could last.

Practically throwing his keys at the valet guy and running into a gym that I believe he now has a lifelong membership, signing a contract to use the rest room. This spontaneous but desperate act landed us in Santa Barbara

A lovely seaside community, we made our way through the artsy village and unique shops. We had a small pizza at Uncle Rocco’s This divvy establishment boasts the best NY pizza-however, I seriously differ. I regret the wasted meal- having said that, it served as substance and not much more than that. Additionally, it was rather expensive for the cardboard creation.


We eventually made our way to the pier- The topaz blue water glistened as the sun mirrored off the sparkling sea. The wooden boards of the pier shared space with cars that could literally drive right up on the boardwalk. Nautical themed overpriced stores lined the walkway, with expensive fancy restaurants –thankfully serving as no temptation, due to the tasteless lunch in our gullets.

We made our way back to the car and chose for time purposes to take the highway home. The steady stream of traffic followed us as we headed back. An impromptu turn onto Mullholland Drive served as eye candy for this gal. As the Hubs winded up and around the curvy street, we passed million dollar mansions hugging the sides of a mountain. I fantasized about living in such a place as we drove by homes with gated entrances and as I caught a glimpse of a light in the window. For just a moment, I was transported to a life of leisure, imagining unbelievable wealth, splendor and endless riches. We pulled over at a lookout as the sun began to set. I looked out at the magnificent homes and then at my gorgeous Hubs as his blue eyes sparkled against the setting flamingo sky. Reality set in, a reality that may not include a butler or a maid. But, I do have all that a Girl could want as I travel the world with her Hubs and just a suitcase.

So, that’s what 3 days in California looks like. For yours truly, it was just a taste of that West Coast charm. I hope again to visit it and see all the amazing wonders that it has to offer.

Until next time….A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase will meet up again perhaps in Sicily & Florence October 2017.

Thanks for tuning in…




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Norway Trip Report September 2016

Norway 2016

Day 1, 2 & 3

It’s that time of year again, where A Girl, Her hubs and a suitcase go exploring the world.  This year we channeled our inner Viking to embark on the Nordic wonders of the world.  First stop Oslo.  But, first-just a brief word on the travel logistics.  We started the journey in Tampa, Florida. A rather uneventful and quite pleasant half-filled plane took us directly to Frankfurt, Germany.  With a Dr. prescribed “happy pill” on board, this girl alongside her hubs slept almost the entire flight.  Flight anxiety usually percolating like a hot cup of Sanka is the norm for this nervous ninny, so the tranquil plane ride and much needed rest was an appreciated surprise.  Additionally, the final short leg to Oslo went just as smooth. 

We picked up our adorable Peugeot and nestled our bodies in the heated seats as we made our way through Friday evening rush hour traffic.  The rain was pelting down as the slick road challenged the hubs keen driving skills.  But, off in the distance, blue skies emerged and the sun slowly started to appear, a friendly and inviting welcome greeting. 

Stone walls flanked the highway displaying jagged rock as rolling hills and mountains peeked off in the distance.  On a tree lined street, as auburn colored leaves slowly tickled the ground we approached our hotel –Saga Hotel  The unassuming, charming 19th century dwelling is our residence for three nights.  It is a stone’s throw from the hustle-bustle of the city center, but situated in a chic, upscale, neighborhood with a young and energetic vibe. 

We got ourselves settled in our quaint and cozy room, took much needed showers and embarked on a mission for food.  The hotel suggested Agra Indian Restaurant, as traditionally The Girl and her hubs love to dine on Indian food the first night of any European excursion.  A 10 minute walk later and we were sitting amongst the fragrant, spicy aromas of mouthwatering Indian cuisine.  The meal was hot, flavorful and deliciously satisfying.  The service was good.  The meal was pricy and indulgent, but seemed to be in line with the inflated prices that seem to pervade Norway that we have seen so far.

From there, bellies full, feet sore and jet lagged we trudged on back to the warmth of the hotel for a nice night’s slumber.

Day 2 /Oslo

Our first real full day in Oslo began with remnants of sun poking through the curtains.  After an uneventful shower scene (yours truly usually has some catastrophic international incident such as the Hong Kong shower flood of 2015, the Milan coffin sized shower event of 2014 or the Hubs bidet assault of 2016 in Turkey that would make the Sultans blush….) But, no issues here-thus far.  We crammed our way to the crowded breakfast area, teeming with hungry and ambitious young Norwegians fully embracing the concept of free breakfast.

We made our way through Karl Johans Gate where the Royal Palace and the accompanying park called Slottsparken dwell!  Lush green spilled out from the grandeur of the palace and it seemed every Norwegian was out soaking up the last remaining sunny days left- rambunctious dogs, enthusiastic kids and kissing couples all out enjoying a splendid Saturday. 


We made our way to the National Art Gallery of Oslo  There was a special exposition on Japanese Art that was truly enjoyable.  The highlight was the notable Scream painting from Edvard Munch  Of most interest were the annoying patrons, that took side by side pictures depicting their own agonizing version of the tormented face.  This traveling twosome was no exception, displaying their unique version of this representation.  All in all the museum was top notch, entertaining and well worth the visit. 

As we piled out on the busy street, we made our way down towards the water.  We stopped at a Norwegian version of Starbuck’s called Wayne’s Coffee  Wayne could have picked up a few tips from Starbuck’s.  However, the stop served dual purpose as we replenished our energy with a light snack, hydrated and refueled-for this brief stop would carry us over for many hours.

The sun was smiling down on the Norwegian peeps and according to the happy young blond faces-everyone was fully taking advantage of this gift from the climate Gods.   We made our way to the pier, where outside restaurants were surrounded by ques of eager diners.  Grateful for our light snack, we pulled up at comfy lounge chair/bench and took in the scene.  We sat there for a long time, many moments in silence just relaxing the day away-a welcome respite in this thriving energetic atmosphere. 


We walked on further down the wooden boardwalk, looking out at the blue sea, an isolated lighthouse in the distance-like a lonely soldier protecting its people.

It took many steps, some foul language and a stern pep talk from the Hubs to get me moving and in the direction of the hotel.  For dinner, we went a couple blocks down to a bar/restaurant called Homan  As a vegetarian, my trips always involve preparation and research of the food in the region.  For Norway, my potential prospects were limiting, so I really prepared for the worst.  I have so far enjoyed the food and considering I thought my choices would be fish or reindeer, neither have I had to choose from.  At Homan Bistro, the vegetarian options were scant.  However, the very savvy Hubs asked if an omelet could be made.  A couple audible grumbles from the waitress later, and Voila- I had a delicious omelet with mozzarella and tomato served in a hot piping skillet.  We dined by cozy candlelight amongst a small crowd-the Hubs happily slurping his fish soup.  Again, the prices were a bit steep, but were pleased with the meal and the service.

After dinner, we took a stroll as the dark autumn night settled in.  The last remaining heat of summer slipping away as cooler weather just ever so slightly chilled the air.  We stopped at Deli de Luca -an upper scale convenience store of sorts.  We indulged in passion fruit sorbet for a bit of sweet pampering and then made our way back to the room to call it in an early night.

Day 3 Oslo

I awoke upside down, disoriented and sore.  I guess all good things -when on vacation.  I quickly got myself together preparing for our last real day in the “big city”.  Another breakfast with the rest of the eager beavers, fighting like a real Viking over the last waffle (not really, but this crew is a feisty bunch and they do take their breakfast quite seriously).  We got in our temperamental Peugeot and drove the 2 miles to the Viking Ship Museum situated in Bygdoy  It is an island literally right off the city center of Oslo.  However, as you enter this region, there are cows and farms and it is anything but the energetic pull of the city.  With impeccable timing we arrived a minute before the museum opened.  As we breached the entry way, a tour bus of approximately 100 enthusiastic tourists dispersed, camera snapping ready to embrace all things Viking.  On a serious somber note, the museum holds 3 ships from the 9th century.  These 3 ships are sacred to the Norwegian people.  The ships were used to transport the dead of high ranking chieftains.  The ships are truly pristine and the chronicling of the excavation was meticulous.  Several selfies later, a quick rampage through the gift shop, fighting off the rambunctious tour group, a splurge on “Moose Droppings” (a delicious cinnamon chocolate covered candy) and we were off.

About a mile down the road, we went to the Norsk Folkemuseum However, unclear as to how to pay for parking, we became annoyed and abandoned the idea only hitting the interesting gift shop for some overpriced souvenirs.  Back to the hotel, we dropped off the car and walked on foot to Vigelandsparken  Within walking distance, it was a nice stroll through the quiet neighborhood.  We were not alone in this idea as swarms of people were out enjoying the pleasant weather and family time.  The park is comprised of 212 bronze sculptures depicting the many stages of life.  Rising high up in the air 56 feet tall is a phallic sculpture called the Monolith.  As one gets closer, it is easy to see they are over 100 human figures entwined around the column.  There are many layers to the grounds with colorful gardens and vibrant flowers.  Of particular interest/annoyance was a large population of school aged children, tethered to their phones, eyes planted on the screen chasing after phantom pokemons.  Apparently, the Pokemon Go app was launched recently in Norway.  Whatever the case, and however ancient this makes me sound-I was sad to see young children (and a lot adults) completely disengaged with life and careening through the park with no regard to anyone or anything around them.  It almost felt as if it was the takeover of zombies, shuffling and scuffling through the park, eyes fixed on their phones.

A few words I would like to share on my interactions with the local people of Oslo.  Although, I am viewing everything through a small microcosm- I have made note of some fine characteristics of the Oslo-nians.  There is a true sense of family and community seen.  Young nuclear families, sturdy and able bodied, sun kissed with the glow of innocence and youth.  The mothers seem to display a juxtaposition of strength and will; however, they also seem to embody fragility and delicacy that is truly powerful to witness.  The fathers have a child-like energy, fit and athletic as well.  But, in contrast, they are in control and seem to be in charge of this unique family dynamic.  I have been perplexed with the culture and feel of the city as strangely, it all seems so reminiscent of somewhere in Europe I have been.  It holds the romance and allure of many of the European cultures.  However, oddly, as familiar as this all feels, it also holds a mystery and a unique nature that I simply at this point cannot put my finger on.

Tune in for more travels of Nordic delight,


Day 4

Eidfjord, Norway

Well, let me set up the scene. Sitting in a cozy lodge, candlelight glowing, my view is of a massive Fjord.  Below is a waterside village-a nautical still life, breath- taking and truly awe inspiring.  So, let’s just rewind back 24 hours so I can catch you up…

Last night to wrap up our Oslo adventure bucket list we had pre-purchased tickets for a cello concert at the Oslo Opera House  We ubered to the other side of town.  The Opera House is a unique architecture that is iconic of Oslo.  It has a large open modern feel to it.  It is right on the water and its characteristics are meant to represent a beach as its concrete sidewalks slant down towards the water.  The whole area is fairly new and is under a state of growth and rejuvenation.  The Cellist we were seeing was Sandra Lied Haga.  We had front row, center seats.  The very talented and entertaining artist gave a heartfelt, stellar 2.5 hour performance with piano accompaniment.  She played a diverse selection of classical pieces with emotion and passion.  We sat next to a lovely couple from Seattle and swapped travel stories.  My neighbor promised to kick me if I started to doze.  Which was a good thing as the artist was directly in my eye view as I could literally count the stitches in her dress seam.

After the enjoyable concert we ventured down town and made our way to Tommi’s Burgers – a greasy spoon dive that only serves burgers and fries.  We pulled up a crusty stool and devoured a pretty darn delicious veggie burger for me and carnivore choice for the Hubs.  Fancy concert followed by greasy burger…That is how we roll- A perfect 24 hours from start to finish.

Ok, now let’s discuss the horror that the Hubs & I encountered upon the return to the hotel room.  The weather in Oslo had been unseasonably warm.  We cracked the window open to enjoy the fine Oslo climate.  Apparently, during this action a nasty, ornery and possibly terrorist fly (the insect with wings) came in.  This fly was like no other.  This creature buzzed around our ears teasing and torturing us as we prepared for bed.  He circled back and forth, tormenting us.  We laid awake throwing socks and towels at this airborne nuisance.  We left the light on hoping he would stay by the glow of the lamp.  At some point, I think he got sleepy and slept with us.  But, when I awoke, the buzzing began all over again.  Exhausted, annoyed and merciless, I swatted at the little guy who must have been just as pooped as we were because I finally did get him.  It was a battle of wills that has forever changed my view on those feisty little buggers.

We left Oslo slightly sleep deprived due to insect harassment, but a renewed spirit to embark on the rest of our journey.  Our next stop was Eidfjord.  We set up our navigator for the scenic route.  Well, this course did not disappoint.  With classical music providing perfect background harmony, our little Peugeot hugged the sides of the curving highway.  The topography changed as our voyage continued.  First, it was plush greens, cow fields and farms.  Then, it progressed to scaling mountains, monolithic in height.  From there, it turned into boggy fields and coastal communities.  We took a break and got gas.  The gas station was smack in the path of the tour bus.  As we pulled up, a busload of 50 eager camera clacking tourists rushed out, hit the bathrooms, rushed the troll section, ambushed the snacks and then as quickly as they came, they were off.  I am certain this will be the theme of the trip.  God Bless these lovely people really.  They are a pleasant harmless bunch contributing greatly to the Norwegian economy.


After many, many photo ops, roadside pop outs and nauseating driving footage, we finally made it to our home for the night- Fjell & Fjord Eidfjord Hotel  The quaint hotel is perched up atop a hill, flanked by Fjords on both sides and the glassy mirror lake below.  The hotel is not overly fancy, but has all the creatures of comfort needed.  The big sell is the million dollar view.  Upon arrival we took a nice walk.  We witnessed a double rainbow, which was pretty magical as it bounced off the fjord. 

We settled in and ate dinner at the hotel restaurant.  We sat window side in the shadow of the Fjord as the sun set- dining on creamy vegetable soup and mountain trout (the hubs).  The hubs ended on a traditional note enjoying the tasty veiled peasant girl -a concoction of apples, cream and biscuits.

Which leads me to this moment- in the lodge, recapping my delightful Norwegian adventure.

Tune in for more tales from a Girl, her hubs and a suitcase as we make our way through Norway…


Day 5


I may have gone on a tangent (remember the Fly??) in yesterday’s blog entry, which completely distracted me from sharing the real excitement which was the drive to Eidfjord.  I touched on it yesterday, but it really deserves more than 2 lines.  The fascinating part was the landscape changed slowly transitioning from one scene to another- each one more interesting and unique than the other.  For the majority of the journey, we were the only car on the road.  An occasional truck zipped on by- shuddering our little Peugeot.  At one point, we entered an area that had an outer space essence to it Hardangervidda  We were as high as we could go, the land was flat and the terrain was unlike anything I have ever seen.  There were no signs of life and the desolate ground absent of any fertile earth.  There were miles and miles of rock fields akin to a quarry almost with big boulders, tiny pebbles and everything in between.  I had a fleeting moment of panic due to two ideas that kept circling my brain in an ADHD fashion.

One was what if we blow a tire?  Surely AAA does not have road service here.  As handy as the Hubs is, I have never tested his tire changing abilities.  The second more pressing concern was prior to our arrival, in an effort to understand Norwegian culture better-the Hubs provided me with a DVD for entertainment pleasure called The Troll Hunter  This “documentary” centers around the premise that there are evil trolls out there that kill people.  The movie is gory, scary and has a Blair Witch Diary feel to it.  More importantly is, one eerie region looked very similar, almost identical to where many of the frightening events occurred in the movie.  Not one car passed us during this time, which heightened my already simmering paranoia.  

This morning we woke very early (5am), the massive Fjord greeting us through the moonlight.  We rose at this odd hour to view via the presidential debate going on in the USA between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  The hotel TV programming has been slightly disappointing.  Having said that it really is important to disengage on vacation, but keep one “toe in the water” per se on current events. 

The breakfast at the Fjell & Fjord Eidfjord Hotel was pleasant.  We noshed on thick, brown bread and eggs and made our plan for the day.  The friendly hostess and helpful chef came to the table to help us navigate a local excursion to a waterfall close by.  Something in translation must have been off, because we never did find the waterfall.  We did however, circle the Fjord and end up down a gravel path to nowhere.  We circled back, took some last photos in the quiet and serene stillness.


We made our way in our trusty Peugeot to Bergen.  Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. In the old seafaring days it also served as the capitol (which is now Oslo).  Getting here was a different driving experience than yesterday, but still quite entertaining.  We made our way through countless tunnels, one after the other, corkscrewing through the mountains. 

Arriving in Bergen, the light drizzle turned into a steady rain.  We are staying at the Hotel Park Bergen  It is a white picturesque dollhouse perched on the very steep top of a hill.  What it provides in charm it lacks in practicality.  Rolling down a 180 degree angle with a suitcase full of dirty laundry was certainly a potential.  We were greeted by a stoic receptionist who further informed us that all parking in Bergen requires a paid for parking sticker that they will gladly assist us with by including a substantial fee to our bill.

We then were informed that the hotel does not have an elevator.  Fortunately, we were only on the second floor.  Thank GOD for that lovely, strong and able bodied Hubs of mine.  The room however, is quite lovely.  It is a small shoebox, with an even smaller bathroom.  But, it has free WIFI, a balcony and beautiful views of Bergen and mountains off in the distance.  I have a desk facing a large window facing the street and feel like a modern day Norwegian Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City shout- out) as I tap away at my prospective great novel.  

As the rain continues to gently fall with no signs of letting up-we chose to lay low, do necessary tasks such as laundry and stay dry-momentarily.   One word on Norwegian engineering and their dryer….It took over 7 hours to dry and still all our laundry was moderately damp.

After laundry duty and a brief nap for yours truly, we set off for dinner.  At the recommendation of our hotel we went a few blocks down and had some yummy Thai food at Allehjornet Thai  The food was pretty straightforward Thai cuisine.  We have ironically been averaging the exact price for our meals-roughly $62.-which strangely varies from a 4 star restaurant to pub grub.  The encouraging piece is we packed lots of snacks from home and have been conservative in our indulgences, all in an effort to appreciate our one good meal each night.

After dinner, the rain diminished for a brief moment.  We walked down to the city center and then of course, the rain kicked in coming down steady and hard.  Umbrellas in hand and yours truly grumbling the whole way, we took in a bit of the Bergen atmosphere.  Only the real diehards were out, but apparently this weather is nothing new for them.  They all seemed well equipped with stylish and useful raincoats and sturdy boots.  Yours truly may have been lacking in one of these essential components.  But, nonetheless, our days here are limited and we made the best of it.

Hopefully, tomorrow brings sunnier skies.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion-tomorrow I will be soggy as well.

Thanks for tuning in for my Norwegian Adventure,


Day 6 Bergen

Well, A Girl, her Hubs and a suitcase are at the halfway point now.  The Hubs and I have truly embraced the Norwegian way of life.  Clean air, that Viking spirit and herring at every meal (just joking on the last part).  This morning we awoke to grey skies, but no rain.  After last night’s continual precipitation, this was a welcome event.  We had a delicious breakfast offered by the hotel, with that same delicious nutty brown, thick bread that has followed us to every stop point so far on this trip.  It is incredibly fresh, texturally delightful and consistently tasty.  It definitely is lacking the GMO deal that our USA bread seems to be loaded with.  At the end of breakfast we struck up a conversation with a lovely mother and son (Lyn and Jake-shout out).  Of most interest, first of all they are from NJ (Yeah, Jersey!).  But, even more interesting is they are traveling the world and have been for 6 months.  We shared many of our travel experiences and they had numerous to add of places we have not been.  Their stories and their experience were captivating.  I truly could have curled up by the fireplace and listened for hours.  However, they had a boat to Denmark to catch and we had to embark on our last day in Bergen.  We parted ways and regretfully I did not get their information.

Down the hill we went to the KODE art museum  KODE is a series of art museums all separately housed.  The two we focused on was 20th century and Modern.  We started off in the 20th century.  We essentially had the entire museum to ourselves.  With the exception of 30 over-excited rambunctious 5 year olds that would pass through in quick intervals.  Quintessential Norwegian braided blond hair, adorable rain coats and squeaky galoshes.  The loud crescendo of children’s voices would echo through the silent halls bouncing off the priceless pieces of art.  It was jarring at first, but quickly a hush would fill the air.  This happened rather periodically throughout the visit.


Despite the interruptions, the museum was truly enjoyable.  Most of the work focused on Edvard  Munch  He was a remarkable and prolific painter with real raw talent.  We circled through the museum twice just to savor every last enjoyable minute.

From there, we ventured right outside the grounds of the museum where a lake and a park were situated.  We had a light snack and took advantage of the sunshine that started only briefly to emerge.  As we finished our snack a very light intermittent drizzle began. 

We popped into the Modern art museum.  This truly was almost appalling.  Phallic strange art instillations hung from the wall, weird placenta like bags of watery biohazard muck were placed on the floor all in an “effort” to represent art.  Now, I always say art is subjective, but really some of this was just downright repulsive.  For nothing else, it served as a “palate cleanser” for our brain.

From there, we walked with the busy lunch crowd over towards the dock where the hanseatic buildings are located.  These buildings date back to the 1700’s but the history behind this culture goes almost as far back as 1070 AD.  It is a “must see” when in Bergen as this is the iconic view that everyone relates this city to.  We walked around the area exploring all its nooks and crannies, which surprisingly goes well beyond the facade of the buildings.  We popped in a few of the stores and were horrified by the inflated prices for essentially Norwegian bric- a- brac. 


At this point, exhaustion and foot pain were consuming this gal.  We stopped into a Starbuck’s, plopped in a chair, and refueled our mind, body and spirits with some hot beverages.  We sat there for over an hour, just taking it all in.

Just right up the street was the funicular Floibanen  It is a quick 10 minute ride up 320 meters to sweeping views of Bergen below.  At the top, are temperamental Billy goats vying for attention.  They seemed to be quite a show stopper for the tourists.  Strangely, from the high vantage point, we could clearly see our hotel, which coincidentally, from my writing post, I can see up there as well.  We snapped some obligatory selfies and then proceeded to take the funicular down.  It was roughly $12 US dollars per person for this activity.  If in this area, I think it really is a must do as it gives one a real perspective of the entire area.

At this point, it was dinner time.  We ate at Boha  a very warm and inviting setting with good service and an elegant but comfortable atmosphere.  I immediately informed the waitress I was vegetarian as there were no vegetarian items on the menu.  I was accommodated with a simply divine beet and goat cheese salad.  This was followed by a chick pea stew that was not bad, but not exactly good.  The Hub was a bit more daring with a 6 course tasting menu.  The dishes were miniscule in size but diverse in variety.  All items were beautifully and delicately displayed-an edible masterpiece comprised of 2 bite fulls.  The meal ended on a fine note of a cheese plate, which yours truly unburdened the overstuffed Hubs and consumed- as he enjoyed the petite dessert offering.   This meal was indeed our biggest splurge, but our only significant expense for the entire day.

From there, we trudged on back up the hill back to the hotel to pack for our continued journey through Norway tomorrow.

Tune in for more tales of Norwegian adventures


Day 7&8


It’s been 24 hours blog free and I am ready to bring you up to speed.  Yesterday we left Bergen and made our way northeast towards our current destination Balestrand.  We winded our way through a steady deluge of rain through long, dark cavernous tunnels and narrow, curvy breath- holding hairpin tight turns.  The roads were slick and at times barely accommodated two cars.  But, drivers respectfully pulled to the side followed by a wave of gratitude between cars in polite motorist comradery.  A ferry took us and our car across the waterway as well, which was an exciting first for yours truly.  After 3 hours on the road, we made it Balestrand our destination for 2 days.  This is a popular summer resort that mostly caters to bike riding, hiking and water activities.  None of which we will be partaking in.  Nonetheless, it is a welcome port in the storm (literally).  It is comprised of a small one street village with a couple hotels, a grocery store and not much else.  After the hustle bustle of Oslo and Bergen we were grateful for some much needed downtime.  We are staying at the beautiful Hotel Kviknes, better known as the “jewel of the Sognefjord”.  The Swiss style hotel built in 1877 brings you back to a time of opulence and luxury.  The décor and original part of the hotel (which we are staying in) have unique furnishings, lounging areas, and sweeping views of Sognefjord.  Our room has a large balcony with a beautiful Victorian overhang that covers from the rain.  The fjord mirrors off the calm water, with snowcapped mountains way off in the distance. 

We rested a bit, taking advantage of the fresh clean air and view.  The rain continued to patter in a rhythmic tapping, but this did not deter yours truly and the Hubs from enjoying every minute of quiet and solitude. 

Later that evening, we made our way to the main dining room.  Masses of tour groups shuffled on through, all with that glassy, tourist glaze- camera happy, touching everything and oblivious to anyone not in the tour group.  They annoyingly consumed every inch of spare space within the dwelling.  They spilled out onto the several rooms adjacent to the dining area, depositing empty tea cups on century old furniture.  The Hubs akins there pervasiveness with determined termites-munching and chomping their way about with gusto (or whatever is included in the cost of the tour).  This is all meant in good fun as the Hubs and I back in our novice travel days went on a splendid tour and truly understand the mechanisms of survival within the tour group dynamic.  It is a very different travel philosophy that what we subscribe to.  We appreciate our freedom, the desire to explore independently and the absence of rigid structure.  For others this suits them fine-to each his own, in the world of travel.

The good news is we were wise and made a later dinner reservation, so the dining room cleared out rather quickly.  The dining room is massive in size and ready to serve hundreds.  There are 3 dining options at the hotel.  One is their bar.  The other 2 are in their dining room.  One is a pretty significant smorgasbord and the other is a 4 course set menu.  We chose the smorgasbord for the first evening.  Long tables display several categories of traditional Norwegian cuisine.  There are numerous salad choices, a large array of fish options all indigenous of this region, hot dishes and vegetables.  There is also is a large presentation of desserts.  Conservative rationing, we paced ourselves knowing soon, we would need to wedge our rumps back in that airplane seat.

As we sat by the window, feasting on our provisions, the rain continued to trickle down.  Full and satisfied, we sat by the fire listening to the intermittent snap and crackle of the firewood.  The last of the tourists had long been tucked in their beds-leaving us alone in this time capsule of the lounge.  I could almost hear the echoes of laughter from long ago of Norwegian socialites enjoying the jovialities of this luxurious setting.

Abandoning the blog for the evening, sleep beckoned us as we dreamed of fjords, Norwegian majesty and endless tables of savory edibles.

Day 8

Balestrand (continued)

Awaking this morning, as I stared out the veranda- the sun made a small appearance.  Thankful for the small reprieve of rain, I stood out on the balcony in the cold mountain air-grateful for all my travel opportunities.  The Hubs puts so much time, effort and planning in these trips-and truly all I do is pack my suitcase and pipe in every now and then some requests peppered with complaints.  Hence, the appropriate naming of this travel blog- A girl, her Hubs and a suitcase. 

We made our way to the dining room for breakfast.  Having slept in just a bit, we missed the tour group brigade-as they were all headed out for the day.  The hotel was eerily quiet and the dining room even more so.  A wide spread of breakfast items, as well as some reminiscent items from last night’s buffet made an encore appearance. 


After breakfast, we made a stop at the tourist information center  We devised a plan, map in hand ready to take on the fjord.

We got in that little Peugeot of ours and took Route 7-the tourist route –Gaularfjellet almost the entire way up Sognefjord.  Again, winding, narrow roads, penetrating rain, mind harrowing road sharing ensued.  My passenger view included waterfalls powerfully gushing down, roaring rapids robustly coursing under bridges, green pastures with dotted farm houses and sheep hugging the slanted hillside.  Each turn up the mountain, despite the weather deterioration was more beautiful than the next.  At some point, again, panic began to settle in my brain.  Not used to this terrain, weather or height, all scary scenarios enmeshed themselves clogging my corpus callosum from any rational thought.  The Hubs was more concerned with the gas tank gauge.  Due to both concerns, we snaked our way back down, never fully, regrettably getting to the peak.  (However, we will tomorrow-so please tune in). 

Back to the hotel, we did some internal roaming around.  Interestingly enough, there is actually a museum within the hotel – The Norwegian Museum of Travel and Tourism- This interesting museum takes one through the history and impact Norway has had on tourism.  There are many interesting and colorful photographs of different regions of Norway.  There are 4 very interesting films with nostalgic footage.  We were literally the only people in the museum and enjoyed the couple hours we spent there.  We ended our time with some hot beverages in the coffee shop overlooking the scenic Balestrand.  We struck up a nice conversation with a local couple.  We were invited to a gallery to view a local artist’s photographs of Balestrand.  We popped over there briefly to see the photos. 

For dinner we chose to go to the bar- Balholm Bar- instead of the potential gluttony of the food feast experienced last night.  We were the only diners in the bar.  The hotel itself had a palpable calmness to it, until a barrage of tour groups pounced through the doors on a mission to invade the buffet line.  The Hubs dined on fresh blue finned tuna apparently just caught due to the ban lifted on catching tuna (according to our new found friend from the art gallery, earlier today).  I enjoyed a stellar Caesar salad with the special of the day- a baked potato cooked to perfection with Norwegian details that put this spud as the best one I have ever had. 

From there, we idled a bit in the lounge having coffee.  We eventually made our way back to the room enthralled with re-run episodes of Modern Family, the only English speaking program we have found in days. 

It’s been a fantastic trip so far, with so many highlights and beautiful images.  It is hard to really relay them appropriately.  I hope I have succeeded thus far in achieving this. 

Tune in for more Norwegian adventures…


Day 9


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

This morning we left Balestrand and the glorious Hotel Kviknes,  2 nights at each hotel has been very enjoyable for us.  The driving itself really is the entertainment as the Norwegian landscape is an ever-changing kaleidoscope-each scene more breathtaking than the next.  And, just when you think, well surely I have seen every possible splendor that this country has to offer-something more magnificent is looming right around the bend.

When we left this morning, we drove back up to the mountain peak to where we attempted yesterday.  It was a zig zag wild mice ride ascending the elevations.  The sun was not out but there were little signs of rain.  We reached an overhang that overlooked the mountain.  The views were slightly limited due to clouds and the start of rain.  Regardless, we finished what we had started the day before and felt closure at least on that task (oddly enough, we were one turn away from the peak when we abandoned our mission yesterday).

We continued our trek to our next destination.  For much of the drive, we were alone on the road.  Every now and then another car whizzed on by, a tractor leisurely maneuvering down the road and a herd of sheep caused a photo op/road block as well.  The backdrops changed drastically throughout the journey.  The waterway rode shotgun the entire way.  The aquatic activity varied from furious and ferocious waterfall, to fierce and dramatic river flow then mild and tame lake.  We oohed and ahhed our way through the multi shifting views.  We passed grass thatched roof houses, endless cows, thick proud forestry and the lushest green emerald fields a hue so rich and deep it is almost indescribable.  The sun popped out for a brief short time, glaring in our eyes, a welcome friend that vanished as quickly as it had appeared.  During that time, we ejected from our car seats to take advantage of all the photos we could take. 

After 3.5 hours we eventually made it to our destination for the next 2 nights- Hotel Union Oye.  The beautiful wooden chalet from 1891 lies between two massive mountains.  It is based in the small village of Oye and according to the website it has been a favorite venue of royalties, writers and lovers.  All the rooms are named after notables who have visited here.  We are in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle room- the Scottish writer who created Sherlock Holmes.  The décor throughout is dark and wooden with knights and moose heads, ornate chandeliers.  One important note here- there is no TV.  This is not a huge deal, but without Wi-Fi, I would feel completely off the grid.  Fortunately, Wi-Fi is free.  The room is really a tiny little box.  Antique furnishings are everywhere, dangerously close to destruction for this clumsy twosome.  We have inhabited every square inch of the room which has taken a way a bit of the romantic allure-however, the view more than makes up for this.  A large mountain drop serves as our view with frisky cows showing off their calisthenics. 

There is not much else as far as we know in this remote area, so luckily for us dinner is served here in the hotel.  We made a late reservation as they have two formal seatings.  There were many diners eagerly waiting their meal as we arrived to the fancy dining room.  The setting is lavish with beautiful décor, candlelight and superior service.  I won’t bore you with the courses, but the food was really delicious.  They made vegetarian accommodations for me as it is a set menu.  Of particular pleasure, I enjoyed a glass of nonalcoholic cider that was described to me as “only the finest of apples from the purest of orchards”.

After dinner, everyone retreated to the spacious lounge.  The fireplace was toasting up the room.  Leather plush seats were occupied by the other diners.  At the center, one of the hotel staff began to tell the interesting history of the hotel.  Sadly, for us we had no idea what was being said as it was in Norwegian.  The audience of about 20 seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this.  After some applause, a gentleman began to sing various songs that pleasured the crowd even more.  The Hubs and yours truly due to heat and not being one of the “cool kids”, decided to sit in another area, another fireplace providing a bit better company than the indifferent crowd.  I tapped away at my travel memoirs amidst nostalgic black and white pictures of a time of Norwegian splendor.

That’s it for tonight…

Tune in for tantalizing tales of Norwegian fun,


Day 10


This morning I awoke to the mooing of cows.  I am not sure I have ever uttered (a little cow humor) those words ever.  As my husband lay upside down fast asleep in our tiny bed (sleep has been challenging at times)-I took a minute to really take in the moment.  Here I am almost at the end of my Norwegian adventure and have seen so many -too numerous to name-beautiful things.  I have lost the ability to creatively describe the intensity of the beauty further.  If you are a Facebook pal, you will probably have your news feed clogged up with all my videos.  This is only due to being the easiest medium for you all to fully grasp in some way how magnificent it is.  I do apologize for the overabundance and saturation of footage, but it is also a video journal for me as well. 

After my pre-dawn cow obsession, I shuffled my weary, achy bones to the shower.  The shower has a 5 foot window full length overlooking the mountain and cows.  Who would have thought you could suds and enjoy your view?

We made our way to breakfast where the same crowd from last night’s dinner were enjoying the morning meal.  After breakfast, we got in our Peugeot and the plan was to go to Alesund for the day.  Alesund is a town north of here approximately an hour.  Its big draw is the architecture is all art noveau.  The Hubs and I love this time period of décor (think the Great Gatsby).  We took the sinuous roads leading to the ferry.  We had to wait 30 minutes for the ferry.  It was 32 degrees out, but the sun was shining brightly warming up the cold air.  The water was completely still and there was virtually no sound present except in the far off distance the forceful stream of a waterfall. 

As we crossed over onto the street from the ferry, our GPS wanted us to get back on the ferry once again.  As we yelled and fought with our navigational system we realized that possibly we would need to get more than one ferry to Alesund.  Confused, disoriented and no one to ask, we abandoned the idea.  

Just a travel side note and tip here….Sometimes plan A does not go accordingly.  I learned many trips ago, to just run with the punches and go to an alternative plan.  Many times these spontaneous choices turn out to be the most memorable.

We decided to just drive.  We had nowhere to go and no one to see.  We took in the Glacier landscape, the old rustic farm houses and the many, many miles of absolutely nothingness.  No other cars on the road just clear skies and sunshine ahead. 

After a while, hunger kicked in.  We stopped at a roadside picnic table facing a babbling creek and a bucolic stone bridge.  We ate a light lunch we packed while warming our faces with the penetrating sun. 

Afterwards, we followed a walking path through the woods.  We took a moderate sized hike through the rocky and at times water logged terrain.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect day that we had not planned.  Back to the hotel, we walked around the beautiful grounds admiring the view of the waterfall, the romantic gazebo, the sleeping lazy cows and the quiet solitude.

After, we sat by the fire as log embers burned a luminescent red.  The Hubs drank tea as classical music piped in the background.  We were the only ones in the room, with the exception of the hardworking female staff in their traditional Norwegian apron and dress, tending dutifully to the firewood. 

From there we took a luxurious nap and awoke just in time for dinner.  Again, we dined in our hotel for a lack of any other supper options within 100 miles.  This evening was a much tamer crowd of 2 other couples.  The waitress remembered I was vegetarian and the chef provided me with sumptuous choices.  The meal consisted of 3 courses starting with an amuse bouche.  Many advanced culinary techniques were observed in the presentation.  Everything was skillfully prepared, beautifully presented and tasty.  The cost was absolutely un-reconcilable in my brain.  It was an uncomfortable amount that lacks rationality.  However, some important noteworthy items here—lunch each day was a light snack mostly of items we brought with us.  Second, our actual costs for the day consisted of gas, ferries and tolls.  Since we left the big cities, there has been no shopping, museums or Starbuck’s.  I am sharing this with you because if ever in Norway—know and budget for the crazy inflated costs of food.  We were aware of this before coming and tried to prepare mentally for the staggering prices. 


Anyways, this does not take away from any of the experiences that we have had-I just share this as a cautionary tale for the future traveler.

I am finishing today’s entry as I sit by the smoldering fire in my cushy leather seat, Hubs at my side.  My biggest dilemma entailed no caffeine free tea at the buffet.  As the Hubs pointed out to me, this is pretty insignificant in the scheme of life.  I am so grateful for this trip, my experiences and this venue to share it with.

Tomorrow is our last day.  It is a full day of travel back to Oslo.  The Hubs is killing it as the chauffeur on this journey.  He is also one of the many things in my life and on this epic expedition that I am so thankful for.

Tune in tomorrow for the final entry and re-cap of my Top 10….


Day 11


Final Day Summary and Re-cap

Today marks the end of this unbelievable adventure.  This morning bright and early we left the beautiful Hotel Union Oye.  I really cannot say enough good things about this fine hotel.  Although it was a splurge, it was a once in a lifetime setting and experience all in all. 

We embarked on a journey back to Oslo-an 8 hour expedition.  As we made our final turn around the monolithic glacier by for the last time, I tried to memorize every nook and unique cranny in this giant wall of rock.  My expectations for this leg of the trip was low as to me it was utilitarian and essentially served to get us back to our starting point.  This portion was anything but…

The temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the powerful glow of the sun penetrated the white dewy frost on the ground.  As we ascended and descended the mountain ranges, an eerie fog rose from the valleys.  As we passed by Jotunheim National Park we were in awe staring out the window speechless.  The Hubs clutched the cold steering wheel as he stole side glances at the magnificent vista that stretched for miles-a panoramic splendor of aquamarine water that glistened against the sun’s rays against the scaling Fjords.  At several hair raising moments we drove through one lane tunnels for miles not knowing if another car was looming around the curve.  That part of the driving excursion was stressful, but the Hubs negotiated these encounters with ease.

Our next stop was Bismoen for a rest stop.  However, the roar of a waterfall drew us close to the edge.  The powerful water stream bounced off the jagged rocks in a glorious symphony.  On the grounds were stellar walking paths and a bucolic grass thatched roof restaurant.  We took a couple snapshots; grateful to be able to have accidently encountered this majestic wonder.

From there we drove by Lam and noticed a Stave  There are only a few remaining churches in this wooden Nordic style.  We sadly thought this would not be in our itinerary as logistics prohibited it.  However, we took a fast U-turn, looked left, then right and took it all in.  A somber cemetery flanks the church as well as sweeping views of Lam and a lovely gift shop.  As I have not stumbled upon any shopping on this trip, I took advantage of the few minutes the Hubs allowed me and got my Norwegian shop on.

From there, we grew closer Lillehammer the home of the 1994 winter Olympics- The traffic began to pick up, our one lane journey creeped up to 2 lanes and although this region looked pretty from the passenger seat, the Hubs weary from driving got in serious driving mode.

We made it to our final destination Hotel Quality Gardermoen  Staying here is purely for convenience as we have an early flight out of Oslo in the morning. 

Just a final re-cap ….

Top 10: (not necessarily in this order…)

10. The hospitality and settings of all our hotels

9. Sitting on the lounge chair on the Oslo harbor

8. Vigeland Park in Oslo (The park of statues)

7. Eidfjord and our yummy meal

6. Waking up to the cows in Hotel Union Oye

5. National Art Museum in Oslo & KODE art gallery in Bergen

4. The beautiful and powerful landscape of Norway

3. Sitting in Starbuck’s in Bergen people watching & relaxing

2. Kvicknes Hotel, smorgasbord and our lovely room and view

1. The lovely kind, polite and hospitable people of Norway

In summary, Norway is an amazing country rich in culture, art, pride, cuisine and landscape.  My experience has been Norwegian’s are proud, strong and industrious, respectful and composed, cultured, refined and family oriented.  At the center of it-Norway is a nation of superior growth, prosperity and vast beauty.  I will forever carry a piece of Norway in my heart reminding me of the simple splendors in life. 

Join A Girl, her Hubs and a Suitcase for a mini get- away in November to Los Angeles, California. 


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Cleveland July 2016

Cleveland in 36 hours—Can it be done? YES!

Well, here is my small but mighty account of my 36 hours in Cleveland.  You may be scratching your chin and wondering “why- my dear friend-why Cleveland?”  Well, to tell you why I must transcend you back in time approximately 2 weeks ago.  The idea was conceived over a tasty batch of salty chips and salsa accompanied by two for one bloody Mary’s at Chili’s happy hour.  Sitting at the bar with the Hubs and glancing over at highlights of a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game-the plan was formulated.  By the time the warmth of the vodka percolated in my veins and the acidic combustive concoction of dueling tomato products began to ignite my reflux- the tickets were purchased.  Some couples celebrate their 4 year wedding anniversary with the gift of flowers, linen or silk but for this daring duo it is a 2 day getaway to the “land of Cleves”. Oddly, Cleveland has been on the “bucket list” for many a years.  My desires for my Cleveland quest were fueled even more so by the astonishing looks of bewilderment, amusement and disbelief for my worrisome weird wish.

So, after a bright and early 4:30 am wakeup call- the Hubs and yours truly embarked on the 2 hour flight to Cleveland.  Upon arrival we hopped on the RTA –Cleveland’s railway system  The train is pretty quick, cheap and convenient.  It plopped us off in Tower city, a grand shopping complex, open and airy with many distractions.  However, the Hubs and I had much to cram into a 36 hour excursion- so no time to waste….


A rather grumpy Uber driver, not representing his city very well, took us the 0.4 miles to our residence for our day and a half stay at the Westin .  Quickly, we disposed of our bags and with an anticipatory shimmy in our step, we marched on down to East and 4th Street for lunch.  This hip, young hopping area was crawling with throngs of lively peeps out in full force for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankee baseball game set to start.  The stadium was a stone’s throw from the potpourri of aromatic, tantalizing restaurants nestled on this street.  We decided on an appealing establishment called The Greenhouse .  One enters this festive dwelling with bicycles descending from the ceiling, a staircase, the wall- basically bicycles everywhere.  The concept is innovative farmhouse fresh.  A unique veggie burger on a vegan bun rocked my socks accompanied by a rather pricy and spicy bloody Mary.  The Hubs went with an old favorite waffles and chicken.  The portions were adequate but slightly on the meager side.  This was a plus as our tootsies would be doing a lot of walking eventually racking up 20,000 steps for the day.

With nourishment in our bellies and a magical mystery musical mission we followed the crusade of rock worshippers to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  The sun was bright, the sky was clear, a calming breeze settled in the air.  The weather was simply idyllic-leaving behind the humid, rain forest- like moist heat of Tampa now a distant memory- a mere 4 hours ago.  Instead, our wimpy internal thermometers usually profuse with sweat welcomed the practically artic like weather conditions.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame resembles the unique glass pyramid of The Louvre in Paris.  Opened in 1986, over 700 inductees have been honored there.  It is a multilevel structure with wide open space and illuminating sunlight streaming in.  Located on the shore of Lake Erie, the white capped waves salute the monolithic building.  Once in there –it is hard to ignore the crowded and popular United Nations demographic encompassing every ethnic, cultural and age spectrum.  Young and old, black and white, the millennial hipster as well as the aged octogenarian joined teamed for a mutual interest-Music.  And, not just any music, but the kind that gets your toe tapping, fingers snapping and hips a swaying.  The experience takes you through chronologically the interesting roots of rock and roll.  The exhibitions are multisensory retrospectives offering inviting videos, graphics, costumes and memorabilia.  My personal favorite was the display on The Beatles.  There was an interactive, stimulating energy that penetrated the crowd igniting a pervasive spirited vibe.  At one point, a live band echoed throughout the hall.  The amplified staccato lingered in the air offering intangible lyrics floating by like dispersed dandelion petals.  The acoustics washed over the crowd in wondrous waves evoking smiles and forming new memories.  We spent several hours exploring, once fully satiated, we left checking one more item off our list.

We trudged on back to the hotel to change and rest.  Once our energy stores were replenished we headed down to our hotel’s restaurant Urban Farmer  This unique restaurant is a modern steakhouse with a rather rustic feel to it.  You may wonder- what could a vegetarian eat at a Steakhouse?  Well, eat I did-and what a magnificent meal!  Seated on a brown speckled cow hide couch, we were given fresh cornbread presented in a tin can with homemade rolls.  The menu included all your usual steakhouse regulars, but all with a fresh, flavorful and enticing twist.  The Caesar salad was fresh and crisp and the dressing had all the perfect components.  A young lady wheeled around a tempting charcuterie plate fit for a still life painting.  Although we did not partake in this indulgence, each time she circled round, I appreciated the beauty and splendor of the cheesy wonders.  A creamed spinach side dish perhaps the best I have ever had followed by oysters and salmon for the Hubs rounded out this magnificent marvel of a meal.  The service was impeccable, the food a bit pricey-but a real must if in the area.

After dinner, stuffed to discomfort we walked around the energetic streets of downtown.  The baseball game earlier went into extra innings.  The Hubs tethered to his cell phone monitoring his team –the Yankees progress.  Nail biting, praying and negotiations with the Almighty were coming out of the Hubs-eventually paying off, because in the 10th inning the Yankees pulled off a win.  As we wandered the streets, sad solemn beaten faces greeted us as we pranced around with pride as we adorned the enemy’s hats.  Even amongst the palpable disappointment, there still remained an excitement and revelry in the air.  The Republican National Convention (RNC) is scheduled for next week.  Due to this thrilling event, the city was spruced up displaying proudly red, white and blue -all clean and shiny.  After a 16 hour day, we were pooped-we made our way back to the hotel to rest up for our final day.


The next morning we were greeted with the same beautiful 75 degree weather.  We then ubered to our last item on the bucket list-The Cleveland Museum of Art .  This is described by many art critics as one of the top 4 art museums in the United States.  So, do not be surprised if next year “A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase” is off to Detroit to tackle another top rated art museum.

Approaching the museum, which is located within the University district we passed the massive sprawl of the Cleveland Clinic  This was a shining moment for me as many years ago, I worked in their satellite campus in Florida.  I beamed with pride at my previous employer, proud of its reputation and its contribution to the economic and healthcare needs of its community and really the world.  Arriving to the Cleveland Museum of Art right at opening, for me this is the best way to experience an art museum.  Walking through the silent, art filled galleries stirs up a meditative internal peace within my core.  I am open to all ideas and ready to immerse myself into the historical, imaginative, evocative journey that only art can offer.  This art museum is truly a hidden pearl veiled in a completely underrated and misunderstood city.  We made our way through the time periods, European and Renaissance, Medieval, French Impressionist and Modern.  Some highlights worth mentioning include the Tiffany room.  The art deco shimmery stained glass vivid with intense colors delighted my soul.  The armory room full of medieval pomp and circumstance transferred me back in time.  I could almost hear the guttural cries of 15th century knights as my eyes caught sight of the steely, intimidating swords.

There were numerous old masters such as Goya, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Botticelli just to name a few.  After a morning of visual stimulation, we built up an appetite.  We ate brunch in one of the two dining options in the museum Provenance  A delicious and visually beautiful offering of fresh items were provided.  As we discussed our favorite pieces and munched on our tasty provisions, we enjoyed our window side view of the museum’s plush grounds.

Renewed with stamina- fueled by brunch we continued on with the museum, perusing the outside grounds and a highly interesting “carcass” of sorts of Rodin’s Thinker, which was partially blown apart back in the 1970’s by the Weather Underground.  It remains there as a testament to the strength and pride of Cleveland.  Wrapping up our tour, we circled back around for an encore -savoring our last final moments of our adventure.

As we made our way back to the airport, the friendly Uber driver George, recounted Cleveland’s history and how it has evolved.  We passed posh neighborhoods with mansions made of brick and old world charm. We skirted through run down communities, neglected buildings and abandoned warehouses.  It was interesting to see the different layers of this diverse city.  I came to Cleveland on a whim with nothing but curiosity in my heart.  I left Cleveland with a new found fondness for the inaptly place they call “the mistake on the lake”.  This lovely city showed me what an underdog is made of- the grit of a fighter, the grace of a dancer, the courage of a soldier, the steadfast loyalty of a trusty companion and the frenetic energy that some good ole rock and roll helps sooth the soul.

Thank you Cleveland for the whirlwind of fun we had for 36 hours.

Tune in for more traveling tales in September when A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase set off for Norway!


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Istanbul Turkey Trip Report March 2016

Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 1

Greetings from the mighty land of Istanbul, former home of the Ottoman and Roman Empires- a unique city on the Bosphorus Sea that straddles two continents-Europe and Asia. The planning and preparations that took place prior to embarking on this journey were exhausting and concerning.-canceled flights, worried friends, fluky, downright strange and cryptic events that have no place in this blog. However, it is noteworthy as it simmered behind the scenes like a witch’s bubbling vat. Nonetheless, minor irritations at best–because here we are in our surreal and exotic world, with all that way in the rearview mirror. Travel is never easy and it is the effort, time and energy that is put into it that reciprocally brings pleasure, awe and gratification.

Entering Istanbul, the vast Bosphorus Sea greets you. Bifurcating this region, high rises and trendy condos flank each side. Palm trees sway in the air, illuminated with many encouraging abundant signs of construction and re-gentrification. I currently am sitting perched atop the first floor of my beautiful room at the Vault Hotel in the area of Karakoy. This region lies in the northern part of the Golden Horn mouth on the European side of Bosphorus. It is also one of the oldest and most historic districts of the city.

Entering the hotel, one is almost transported back in time. The establishment was a former bank and even still houses a vault- which will be explored at some point. The antiquities housed within the hotel are breathtaking and imposing. Greeted by the friendly staff, we were quickly taken care of and taken to our little jewel of a room. It is a petite room, a perfect geometrical square with impressive floor to ceiling windows, an opulent ceiling and art befitting for a gallery. Of course, it has all the creature comforts of home, as well as free WIFI, a gorgeous marble bathroom and a bidet that the Hubs was accidently violated by (mistaking for a toilet handle).

With a very strange, but dually exciting midnight flight across the Atlantic, we did not arrive until late evening to Istanbul. Not tired, but lacking motivation, we explored our internal surroundings and dined at the restaurant here in the hotel on the roof deck . Sitting window side, we held a bird eye’s view of Istanbul. The Hage Sophia- which you will hear much of later, stood impressively in the distance.  The Sea -dark and infinite, showed off the many ships crisscrossing the calm waterway. Lights twinkling in the evening sky as nocturnal birds flapped their wings in a delicate dance.

Our waiter, friendly and very informative helped us choose our selections from the Turkish delicacies. He started us off with fresh and flavorful bread with a tangy tomato and olive oil tapenade. This was followed by an appetizer so impressively displayed, of 10 spoons housing a variety of Turkish specialties.-all of which were delicious. A creamy, garlicy hummus, a unique fennel and plum jam, a tart yogurt spread and others.


Each bite more tantalizing then the next. Dinner comprised of eggplant and Halloumi cheese in tangy and smoky tomato compote. The cheese, a Cypress cheese unique to this area, melted over the eggplant like gooey velvet blanket-all these flavors, foreign and pleasant to my taste buds.


The meal ended with the sweet and delicate loveliness of baklava-the airy pastry and pistachio sweetness with a tease of clotted cream on top.

The meal was absolutely memorable, the service was impeccable, the atmosphere and view 5 star and the price was very reasonable.  Considering our options this evening was a bag of nuts or this- I would say we chose wisely, a real perfect start to an exciting adventure.

Well, as all spring trips usually occur (if you are a faithful follower of A Girl, Her Hub and a Suitcase) you will know today it a Red Letter day for this duo-as it is also the Hubs birthday today. So, I must bring this to a close as the celebratory festivities of the birth of the Hubs is about to commence.

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More tales of Turkish delight to come,


Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 2

Greetings from your Turkish travel queen. I come to you live with your latest and greatest trip report update. Before I ramble on about today’s exciting events, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this….I hear all your safety wishes-every last one of them. And, the Hubs and I truly appreciate it. In fact, when wandering this diverse, vast earth of ours-it is these sentiments sometimes that get me through the sometimes scary world of travel.

However, I hear you.  I get it.  The world is not 1999 anymore.  A lot has changed, some good, some not so good.  But, the Hubs and I have also changed and grew wiser, more “worldly” and adaptable to the differences that exist among us.  Each trip, every spring and fall, wherever this traveling twosome roams, we do our research.  We treat this like a marathon.  We train our brains and our bodies, both physically, mentally, and spiritually to immerse ourselves in the culture we will be adjusting to.  This is a respect driven task and not only do we become avid members of this foreign community in our hearts: we also embrace the differences we may encounter.  I am not in a bubble and see the challenges that face us all in this ever changing world we all share.  This adventure- the Hubs and I embark on –our biannual pilgrimage of sorts has molded us both to be more forgiving and open to the environment in which we are in.

Having said all that, if you read this blog and feel the need to update me on current world events or dramatic tragic happenings-I ask of you-this is not the forum.  I again appreciate your concern and even understand that this may not be your “thing”-however, I need each one of you to truly understand this-The Hubs and I are guests in these foreign lands.  We welcome the customs and ways of life we encounter.  Our eyes are truly open to the danger that present (and don’t present) themselves.  I am not on a Disney ride with singing elves or a fire-breathing dragon.  This is real life, I document as I interpret it.  So, continue to whisper your prayers and wish for my safe return.  I feel the love and grasp the sentiment.  But, please limit the safety chatter and New York Times updates.  We are watching the news and understand the dangers that lurk among us.

One final note on this….Everywhere we have been within this lovely city of Istanbul has had “airport-like” security.  Scanners, metal detectors, military guards with machine guns all calmly but powerfully providing safeguards in this vulnerable community.  Vigilance and awareness is essential and the usual mindless ambivalence seen in the past is not present here.  However, the Turkish people accept the deal they have been given right now and have adapted to the security threats that really affect all of us on a global level.

After all this dialogue, there is no easy way to segway into Turkish breakfast, but I shall try…

Awakening from our slumber, we made way to the grand dining hall for the complimentary breakfast that   awaited us.  Turkish delicacies lines the marble breakfast bar, many unknown to this gal.  A breakfast menu was also provided with Turkish omelets, waffles and other scrumptious options-loading our empty guts with food to which would ultimately sustain us for many hours.

We set on foot in the damp and intermittently raining air across the Galata Bridge, bringing us to the other side of Istanbul.  The seagulls swooped over us, one later on in the day christening my auburn afro.  It was early morning, fisherman were out thrusting their poles ready for a fruitful day.  The tourists were still sleeping, most of them except this duo as store front owners lifted their gates ready for a lucrative retail day.

Our walk ascended, slowly climbing in narrow streets with themed storefronts for each block.  Our block is the Mecca for chandeliers (not very helpful when searching for food), the street next to us is Plumbing central.  Eventually, we hit a music store, unique from anyone I have ever seen called OTAG Musik Merekezi . A curious cat rubbed at our legs as beautiful Mulberry guitars hung from the walls.  The adorable shop owner Yasar welcomed us, ushering us to try anyone of these acoustic angels.  The Hubs as you may or may not know is quite the guitar aficionado.  Those mighty sausage link fingers can really strum up a melody and his talents did not lack in Turkey.

The lovely Yasar pulled out her best car salesman bravado, tempting the Hubs with musical possibilities.  However, not wanting to lug around a guitar all day and the vision of accidently thumping 27 poor skulls as we made our way through coach on Turkish airlines deflated his visions of musical majesty.  However, Yasar allowed us a picture as the Hubs plucked away doing his best Eric Clapton meets Istanbul impression.

Next stop, Topkapi Palace built in 1460 this palace was the digs for the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.  Everyone seems to be quite titillated with seeing the Harem, where all his ladies lived.  However, we skipped this and focused more on the immense layout of the compound and the gorgeous water views all along the Bosphorus River.  The grounds were sprawling and the vibrant Turkish tiles still maintained their deep rich hues.  The selfie sticks were swinging and the crowd was steady.


We then we popped our head in and shoes off to see the Tombs of the Sultans and then off to Hage Sophia  This is one of the most iconic visions of Istanbul.  It is an archeological wonder, originally a church that was erected in the year 360.  Destroyed and resurrected many times, eventually in 1453 it became a mosque.  In 1935 it was converted into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Inside it is a hybrid of Christianity and Islam.  The Hubs climbed the many ramps to the top for sweeping views.  I opted out of this activity as energy and motivation was slipping like sands in an hourglass.  Hailing a taxi, we made our way back to the hotel for a bit of rest and surprise birthday celebrations.

A major reconnaissance mission was under way as Sammy my front desk accomplice had provided a chocolate cake of epic deliciousness from Koskeroglu  It was the Hubs birthday and being on an international trip of a lifetime is not enough for this big hunk of love Hubs of mine.  In our room, in a beautiful presentation was this cake delivered by the chocolate Gods. It was by far the best cake I ever had and served as a ridiculously indulgent lunch as it was many, many hours since our breakfast.


Bellies full of birthday gluttony; we rested our weary feet in preparation for our evening celebrations. Via taxi in staggering evening traffic, we had an evening at the symphony- this included pianist Freddy Kemf and the Borasani Philharmonic.  The evening began with a somber melody of remembrance for the recent activities that transpired in Ankara that led to many deaths.  It was a beautiful piece that was stirring and evoked many emotions.  This was followed by several upbeat Gershwin numbers and finished with some flawless classical pieces.  Between travel exhaustion, physical fatigue and time change adjustment, several pats and kicks were given to each other to keep the eyeballs open and commence any disruptive snoring.

After the show, a harrowing taxi ride through the streets of Istanbul was had.  Clutching the seatbelt and praying, we were plopped off in the middle of a one way highway as the taxi driver lacked GPS and apparently any driving sensibilities all at a ripped off rate, nearly doubling the price.

With no dinner options available except the remnants of a stellar chocolate cake, we returned to the rooftop restaurant of our hotel . Some tasty bar food was enjoyed, served by our same friendly waiter from the evening before.

By the end of the meal, it was midnight.  It had been a long enjoyable day, full of sightseeing, birthday jubilations and musical pleasures.

Join me next time for more Turkish tales,


Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 3

3 hours of sleep but this gal is going strong. I think it’s all that hummus, salty sea air or merely the magical powers of pigeon poop.  Either way, Turkish life suits me well.  After a hearty breakfast, the Hubs and I a bit cocky on our travel high, or simply an overabundance of carbs at breakfast-we bought a pass for the tram that navigates quite easily around the city.  Yesterday I wasted much time and precious energy with our entertaining trek up to the sights.  We embarked on the tram system like total locals.

Exiting at The Blue Mosque our intention was to go there. However, immediately a lively, rather aggressive gentleman took us hand in hand to his carpet store. The move was rather ballsy, I would say-but The Hubs was merciful giving this poor guy a chance.


Fearful that this may turn out like the Orlando time share we almost broke the bank for, I intervened.  Waving my finger in my best New Jersey accent, informing him his business practices were deceptive.  Meanwhile, The Hubs was still wrangling for a bargain, inquired the price of this a one of a kind-carpet.  Realizing that there are better ways to wisely depart with $2500 for a fancy bath mat, we high tailed it out of there.  The one good piece of information the gentleman did offer was the Blue Mosque did not open until after 1:30 on Fridays as this is an important day of prayer.

So, instead we visited the basilica cistern -a subterranean water system derived from 537.  The water was delivered by a forest in Belgrade and then housed in this marble underground reservoir.  The unique dwelling is right off a city block, but as you descend the steps, eerie dim red lights illuminate a path.  Marble large thick columns are perched within the water and frisky girthy fish swim just below the surface showing off for the tourists. Mystical Turkish melodies and the occasional drip are the only sounds that pervade the stillness.

From there we made our way to the Grand Bazaar – Istanbul’s’ unique version of Mall of Americas; but, before we get to that-let me share a bit of my cautionary tale.  I had to use the bathroom and conveniently located was a water closet (WC).  Not realizing this was a pay toilet situation.  So, naïve me- I walk up to a gentleman behind a desk, which in my opinion may be the world’s worst job ever- he then subsequently asked for one Turkish lira (35 cents) and handed me your run of the mill kitchen napkin.  Only one may I add! So, he points me in his foreign dialogue to a door, rather vaguely.  I apparently go to the wrong door and enter a prayer session with men and shoes on the floor.  Well, this is odd I say to myself.  I quickly skedaddle out of there.  Eventually, I make my way to the toilet.  Ugh, may I say.  Absolutely deplorable-but when you got to go-you got to go.  Careful not to touch a thing, I try to get out of there quickly rather heavy on the hand sanitizer.  However, in my haste and slightly slippery from my over sanitization- I trip fall splat on the wet (unclear as to what biohazards may have touched me) floor.  Traumatized, bruised and now contaminated I find the Hubs.  We then immediately go to Starbucks which actually has a free bathroom, real toilet paper, but actually much more biohazards than the prayer room/water closet.  That is my story on – A funny thing happened on the way to the Grand Bazaar.


The Grand Bazaar is an absolutely overwhelming experience-but a MUST if in Istanbul.  Dating back from 1455, it is a colonnade of over 3,000 shops that twist and turn in mazelike hysteria.  There are themes to help organize ones needs-however, I did not catch onto this at first.  There is jewelry, candy, clothes, knick- knacks and much, much more.  We got very lost within the jumble of corridors-a compass would have been very helpful.  At 1200 noon as the Hubs was trying on his turban-like hat, the gentleman assisting us informed us that all men had to go for prayer.  Before you know it, men started closing shop, running down the corridors all to pray for the hour.  Over a loud speaker, the call to prayer (ezan) billows out over a loud speaker, a guttural cry that for me created a physical, visceral reaction.  The prayer evokes emotion and once I heard this, I felt it inappropriate to do such mundane activities such as shopping.  I pulled to the side and respectfully just sat in silence, until the tonal reverberations subsided.  This is my experience of a very sacred practice, and I have tried as best as I can to describe to you.  In my reporting, it is not my intent to poke fun or joke about this.  I hope that reverence was notated in my documenting of this act.


During the shopping extravaganza, we stopped off at a candy booth and taste tested numerous sweet treats called Turkish delight I add that after about 7 or 8, there really is no delight-just a mild headache followed by some benign nausea.  However, this did not stop yours truly, who along with her trusty companion left with several boxes for the peeps back home.  When you taste it, just remember the sacrifice that I made choosing the right flavors.

From there, we sat on a park bench overlooking the water and crowds of people spilled out into the square.  We had a very light snack (still full from TD) and rested our feet.  Contemplating our next activity, we made our way over to the water.  A sleazy somewhat friendly guy approached us for a boat ride excursion.  Impulsively, we consented and made our way to a lovely boat.  We boarded the boat with about 30 other semi-annoying individuals who in their spare team like to feed seagulls, take selfie after selfie and agitate the heck out of sweet angelic tourists such as myself.


The air was crisp and cold, in the 40’s but the sun was ferociously bright.  We sat on the top deck, looking left and right, Europe, Asia back and forth.  The seagulls trailing alongside as the tourists with ADHD tossed morsels of food at the greedy fowl.  It was a perfect activity that rounded out an amazing day.

We made our way in the dwindling sunlight back to the hotel to rest.  This much needed respite turned into a full on nap that only by chance did we awaken.  At the suggestion of the hotel, we ate dinner at a trendy restaurant that similar to our hotel was a previous bank.  Neolokal is a beautiful establishment 3 doors down from our hotel.  We dined on waif like portions with crafty descriptions.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was tasty and satisfying, but it was more art then substance.


After dinner, we walked around our neighborhood, getting to know our surroundings.  We eventually made it back needing rest for a full day tomorrow.

Tune in for more tummy ache tales of too much Turkish Delight,



Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 4

Today was a somber day.  There was a bombing in Taksim Square.  According to what I know, 5 people were killed and 36 injured-7 of those seriously.  What are my thoughts on this? I have many.  First of all, I chose to continue on with this blog because it is a true account of my experience-good or bad.  I usually pepper it with funny commentary to lighten a sometimes heavy subject.  This entry will be void of that.  In fact, this entry is dedicated to the victims of this tragedy.  I continue on because my philosophy has always been the same- I will not live my life in fear.

I know there are many arguments wisely debated regarding this.  However, I am here in Turkey-living this, and truly only I can really accurately judge my actions and reasoning.  I am here for the remainder of my trip.  I have no intention of leaving early.  Let’s walk through some of the practicalities…

First of all, despite this senseless and terribly heartbreaking event- I am enjoying myself.  The people of Istanbul are just as upset over this and do not condone this violence.  In fact, the people here are some of the nicest I have encountered.  It is a nation of passion, vibrant in all aspects-their food, bold colors and religious fortitude.  There are always extremes in everything.  It is those at the polar ends of the spectrum that make poor, deadly decisions.

This issue is way bigger than me and my blog is not the place for political debate. I know too little to go down this road.  I would like to share one story with you regarding today’s events.  The story for me pulls everything together and has given me a bit of clarity on life and how fragile it is.

Today our schedule was completely devoted to a tour with a private guide.  Gamze Artaman specializes in “off the beaten track” tours.  We began to talk about the art of Whirling Dervishes.  If you are unfamiliar with this –it is a form of meditation that entails spinning in a rhythmic fashion.  It was created by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi.  At the center of all his teachings is divine love.  Just as we began discussing this, we were right by the Mosque it first began.  We received special permission to enter there as it was closed.  We followed all the basic rituals, taking our shoes off, covering my head as we entered the quiet and empty hall.  We sat in the stillness as Gamze explained the meaning behind Rumi’s teachings and the Sama ceremony.  Her interpretation centered around rebirth, redemption and reincarnation.

Listening to her as she related this to the very recent loss of her young husband, clarity began to settle and everything in my heart was open to this thinking.  My core began to swell with love and any fear was quickly replaced by a strong and powerful inner peace.  We continued the conversation a bit longer, the idea deeply settling in my soul leaving me with a new found understanding of my purpose here on earth.

We left still unclear on a plan as to what do the rest of the day.  But, quickly a plan was formulating.  We would go to Taksim for the remainder of the day.  We would start at the top of the street and wind our way down, eventually leading straight to our hotel.  We stopped for a coffee rest break- when Gamze suggested we rethink our plan as there was some sort of attack in Taksim.  We sat at a table, drinking hot tea watching CNN Turkey and slowly began to learn of what had happened.  I instantly thought of my mother, my sisters, my friends and my safe home.  I got such a strong sense of “homesickness”- and all I wanted to do was hear my Mother’s voice.

Even though it was barely 6am, and my thoughts were purely self-need driven-it was a need I had to instantly fulfill.  And, so I did.  I selfishly woke my mother unloaded my burden on her, leaving her alone worrying.  But, this child at this moment needed to know there was still one safe place in this world.

The rest of the day I will spare as it all seems rather silly in the scheme of things. But, it served as a grateful distraction, channeling my energy as a helpful diversion.  I need to point out the divine fate of this day.  We had not planned to go into that Mosque, we had not planned to have a 30 minute conversation about the fragility of life and second chances and by doing that-we were not in Taksim square, possibly under other circumstances.  All of this-yes is “happenstance”-but on a day that only stimulates more questions-this was enough of an answer for me.

I will continue to document my trip.  My reader, I respect your choice to disengage if you choose.  But, if you get one thing out of this-such as hug your child tighter, live in the moment for just a second longer, and know that maybe-just maybe there might just be something more out there for all of us.  I hope that this helps you understand me a bit more.


Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 5

Last night for obvious reasons-it was a “lay low” kind of night.  The streets were an eerie ghost town, especially for a Saturday night.  As my warm air breathed on the cold window creating a mystical fog, I saw not one human on the street outside.  An occasional lonely wandering dog trudged on by, oblivious to the changed world.  The kaleidoscope in which I now viewed every aspect of this trip had changed leaving all its vibrant hues to shadows of darkness.

We ate snacks in the room as the rain tapped away at the window.  We watched nonsense shows on TV just to avoid the news.  And, then eventually restless from our inactivity we relented to sleep with little protest.

In the morning, the streets remained empty.  We spoke with the hotel staff to try to extract any local information.  We were provided some very basic advice that served little use and did not really offer us any further sense of well-being.  We embarked out into the cold air trying to contain some microcosm of normalcy.  As we continued to walk, we found ourselves in front of the Galata Tower -built in the 6th century it served as a prison, a watchtower and a lighthouse.  It scales 230 feet up in the sky and offers amazing views of Istanbul and beyond.  The elevator takes you up 7 flights and then you climb 3 flights.  There is a thin circular terrace that loops around the narrow top.  Visitors dangerously squeeze on by trying to capture the best view.


From there it was one straight uphill climb to the Galata Mevlevihanesi Hall If you recall yesterday with Gamze the tour guide we discussed extensively Whirling Dervishes.  This spiritual dance has enamored me all during the planning of this trip.  We found the museum to purchase the show for this evening.  However, the kind gentleman at the box office showed me his phone acting as the translator displaying one very telling message CANCELED DUE TO TERROR.

To say I was not disappointed would be untrue.  However, I quickly put this in perspective and will always choose safety first.

We continued walking as the sun starting to warm up the cold air.  The few people walking would sporadically make paranoid eye contact sizing up their risks and exit options.  Individuals stared blankly void of any tell-tale signs of emotion.  As if on a pilgrimage, we found ourselves walking on the exact street the incident occurred and quickly realized we were standing amidst groups of people who have curiously like us consciously or unconsciously arrived to the same place.  The Turkish flag hung above flowers that lay in the doorway, like a strong, proud soldier protecting his people.  Photographers, camera crews and the curious lingered respectfully.  Speechless with a lump in my throat I said a silent prayer, a whisper of gratitude and then moved on.


By midmorning, though- more people began to pile out on the streets.  Palms pressed in hands from church on Palm Sunday, a resilient calm seemed to pervade the city street.  Commerce slowly commenced, Starbucks opened and it finally seemed that we as a whole may be able to move on from this.  A feeling of hope seemed to cloak the people, like a heavy warm quilt.

We stopped for lunch at a local place with a menu full of gaudy, bright photos acting as deceptive enticement for a hungry tourist.  The food was pretty bad, although the pictures were keenly accurate.  From there, we sat at Starbucks, which was nearly empty- a real sign of normalcy off its axis.  The Hubs and I had deep conversations, clinging to one another‘s thoughts like a buoy in the rough sea.

Nothing works better for the emersion back into real life than retail therapy.  We found some very unique musical stores with interesting instruments.  This was a very welcome distraction.  Then, we went to an amazing art establishment called Artangels.  This very one of a kind store that specializes in hand- made crafts all made by the owner Nuvit Tuzel and his wife.  Beautiful ceramics, crochet objects and other unusual items can be found here.  We made many purchases in there, while enjoying lively conversation and sharing the depth of what had happened with this lovely gentleman.

We continued to wind our way down the street in route to our hotel.  Along the way, I encountered something that I want to share with my reader.  This is once again a cautionary tale and I hope that these shared mishaps benefit you the reader in some way.

Yesterday, a young man walked by me and dropped a brush from his shoe shine kit.  I kindly said, “excuse me you dropped something.” And, this young man continued to follow the Hubs and I quite closely (too closely) and attempted to grab his feet to shine.  The Hubs was quite insistent he did not want nor need this.  We were lucky to shoo him away.

Well, similar to a deja vous experience-the exact same thing happened again!  And, yet again, I said “excuse me you dropped something.” The young man did the same thing except this time, he succeeded in grabbing The Hubs feet.  He said- I do this for free. I am so poor.  Then, I tried to give him a couple dollars and he took a $20 instead of providing me change.  I got all “JERSEY” (NJ) on him and starting yelling and cursing at him-realizing the whole bloody thing is a scam.  He scurried away, but then ran back to me handing me half my money back.

On the way back to the hotel, we noticed 2 other shoe shine men do the same drop the brush technique!  I almost kicked their stupid brush down the street!  However, The Hubs requested I restrain myself.  At the hotel, I shared this with the desk staff and they informed us, that although The Hubs shoes were nice and shiny (and they were)-to quickly rinse them as they use some sort of animal excrement or something to clean the shoe with- that eventually damages them in 10 minutes (there may have been a bit of a language translation here- I hope).

For dinner we ventured out looking for the “perfect” place.  And, boy oh boy did we find it…Andrea is on a quiet side street about a brisk 5 minute walk from our hotel.  We stumbled upon this treasure purely by accident.  It is a previous Monastery and its presence is quite welcoming.  Red lighting illuminates the inside like warm burning embers.  Loud techno music thumps away rhythmically in a continuous loop.  The interior is cloister meets classy brothel with a dash of high energy rave.  There are 3 levels.  The bottom floor is a bar complete with good looking millennials enjoying the benefits of “adulthood”.  The second and third floors are for diners, which was only us.  The menu was all in Turkish and the waiter patiently struggled to help me while I indecisively vacillated between options.  In the end, I committed to a lovely plate of hummus and some interesting noodles.  The Hubs had a creamy tomato soup and a beautifully cooked salmon.  During our meal, a bride (post wedding nuptials) threw her gown rather obscurely next to us and invited us to her wedding shindig downstairs.  Although, this would be a first for us-we opted out as we have an early outing tomorrow that will be an all-day (and night) event. Due to this-most likely, my blog will resume on Tuesday-our last day.

One final note regarding all the events that have transpired in the last 2 days…..Please try to understand, we are trying to make the best out of a very sad and scary set of circumstances.  My pithy jokes and attempt at benign sarcasm is all in an effort to salvage the remainder of our trip.  It is hard to comprehend that one day after all this madness that one could shop, eat, sight see and have the audacity for humor.  However, life has resumed here.  People are out, business as usual-doing their thing.  My hope is that you the reader do not find offense to the resumption of normality and recognize the absolute need for this.  The alternative will only help evil to prevail.

Love and all things Turkish,


Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 6

Up this A.M. before the crack of dawn we had a big day planned and escaping the city could not have come at a more perfect time.  We spent the day on a private tour with 10 individuals through a company called Crowded House At 6am, we piled into a “crowded van”, hence the name??  The group was an eclectic bunch with many years of travel between us all.  There was a lovely couple from Australia, a family of 3 generations including a teenager on his spring break.  A darling single mother and a high spirited young boy celebrating his 8th birthday as well as a very well-traveled, young, charming couple from London, recently relocated from Australia.

It was a 5 hour trek to the destination-each way, with a breakfast stop and numerous bathroom breaks.  The breakfast and lunch were included in the cost of the ticket and were subpar/borderline prison gruel.  However, the establishments were acceptable and accommodating and perhaps I am a bit spoiled by the amazing cuisine that has been consumed thus far.


We voyaged out t to Gallipoli peninsula- a region in Turkey famous for a battle that lasted over 9 months in 1915 and over 45,000 lives were lost.  The Hubs and I relish history and anything War related.  We had done our research prior to this and I highly recommend the Russel Crowe movie The Water Diviner that weaves an emotional depiction into a gripping historical account.

After the long journey and our bellies full-we finally arrived to the vast seaside battleground-which is now a national park.  Our guide Bulent Yilmaz Korkmaz expressed his excitement and enthusiasm for this subject with robust fervor.  The tour takes one to 11 different sites on the wide spread grounds- all with breath taking sweeping views of the Aegean Sea.

Walking on the sacred grounds of the many cemeteries, there is stillness in the air, a quiet vibration –that if you listen closely you can almost hear the battleground cries of young boys that died way too young.  It helped me to reflect on my own personal losses and fears that I have recently been forced to face on this trip.  As I let the sun shine on my face and the wind whisper in my ear, a restorative healing began to take place.




We stopped for a very unappetizing cafeteria style road stop dinner that was so unappealing, hunger seemed a smarter option.  We began our 5 hour journey back with intermittent head bobbing, nodding off slumber followed by chatty restlessness.  I learned many things about my travel crew and remembered one of the many joys of travel is encountering new people, unique stories and meeting at that mutual meeting ground of shared commonalities.  With the magic of social media, friendships can continue way past a trip ending.  Arriving back at the hotel 16 hours after we set off, tired but fully satiated I would certainly recommend this to a future traveler.

One last note….I have received much feedback –regarding my “decision” to continue on with my trip.  I feel one final time-I must address this.  I hope I can explain this in a way that is both respectful but transparent.

Let me compare this to what I understand and appreciate most-ART.

When viewing a painting, art is subjective.  It is all in how one views it.  The closer you are to it, the more different and possibly distorted it appears.  As you shift back, and your eyes adjust the view takes on an alternative perspective.  Sometimes, one needs to walk away from the picture, take a breather and look at it with fresh eyes.

This incident that occurred less than 10 minutes from our hotel, and where I was to be that day- is quite close to me.  Local news is in a different language, and therefore I am dependent on the information that is released on international news.  What you my reader may be seeing, hearing, or reading may be quite different than what I am exposed to.  So, as I wind down this vacation with one day left-understand my perception is reliant on the variables in which that are present.

One very final note on this and then we can really seal this baby up.  Life has moved on here-business as usual.  “Running to the embassy”, “renting a car and escaping”- these are some of the options people who care for me have suggested.  We are not in Uganda during Wartime.  Getting on an airplane early? What will this solve? Where do I draw the line? That’s the bottom line-where does the line in the sand be drawn?  Travel just within the United States? This does not exempt me from harm.  Travel just on the Eastern Sea board? Travel only 20 minutes form my house?  Where and how does it end?

This is not a rant.  My blog is a sacred place for me.  It is a real- time daily account of what I experience.  I completely appreciate your prayers, love, well wishes and curiosity.  Please keep them coming.  But, ultimately – life is about living it to the fullest, embracing challenges and moving past overwhelming hurdles.  My friends, we got this!


Istanbul, Turkey

March 2016

Trip Report

Day 7

I have chosen to finish my trip report from home.  Let me explain the series of events that transpired the last remaining hours in Turkey.  Day 7 (our final day) began with enthusiasm and trepidation.  Normally, the Hubs and I do a “circle round” of our favorites, meaning, we venture back to some of the sites we enjoyed to get a different perspective of it, or simply see something in it we may have missed the first go around.  However, many of the sites such as Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque which we wanted to re-visit were crowd gathering places and this did not feel “safe” to me.  So, after our final delicious breakfast consisting of some of the many items I will miss such as -honey-drenched pastries, salty, briny olives, and Turkish cheese, we formulated an alternative plan.

Out into the spring like air, we headed out on foot to The Istanbul Modern – Istanbul’s modern art museum.  It is a large open space, with glorious views of the Bosphorus Sea.  The art is whimsical, colorful and in many different mediums-such as visual, musical and tactile as well as various combinations.  It ranges from curious to political, with hidden meanings embedded within the context of the art.  We spent roughly an hour there.  It served as a “palate cleanser” for our brain-offering our minds a clean slate, wiping away many of the lingering fears and uncertainties that had been vexingly tapping away at my cerebral cortex.


From there, we took the Istanbul Funicular -Istanbul’s metro system up to the top of Taxim for shopping and soaking in the remaining hours of our time here.  We absent mindingly window shopped- a juxtaposition of fear and paranoia intermingled with moments of distractive joviality.

We darted in a Cathedral St. Antonio,  one of the few I had witnessed on this trip.  The ornate church was a temporary home to my heart in this sea of unfamiliarity.  I sat in a pew next to The Hubs in the silence.  As the religious icons faced me, I silently prayed for our safety and relished the peace that swelled inside of me.

At one point, during our promenade we witnessed a large crowd, strapping men, marching, literally linked arm and arm.  These suited men all had foreign emblems and wording, unknown to me or The Hubs.  As this team thumped their feet down in unison, they made their way down the street as if on a mission.  Flanked on each side and behind the mass, were paparazzi, cameras, and reporters scurrying to get a shot.  The Hubs and I were completely caught off guard and curiously, cautiously tried to connect all the dots.  We stopped a camera man, who was more concerned with his footage then our annoying nosiness-and asked him what this was about?  He hurryingly barked “CONSULATE”.

Unclear with this clue, we chalked it up to translation confusion and matters that don’t concern us.  As we continue to walk down the hill, we made our way back to our friendly shop keeper Nuvit  Tuzel the proprietor of ArtAngel.

We were greeted with enthusiastic hugs, double cheek kisses and squeals of excitement.  His wife and nephew were there, and as if now family, he offered us apple tea and a seat.  This was the exact moment, my vacation turned.  It’s like there was before, and an after on this trip.  Technicolor then black and white-this was the moment.  On his laptop was streaming CNN reporting another terrorist attack in the Brussels airport.  34 people were killed.  Departing tomorrow-less than 12 hours from this point, my mind began to spin like Alice down the rabbit hole.  Fear wrapped its arms around me; my “quilt of safety” had now turned into a lead blanket, weighing me down, crushing my spirit and enveloping me in a fear so visceral, I was strangled in inertia.

All the ornamental art pieces in the store surrounding me seemed to be mocking me of my naivety.  All my claims of safety, my insistent pleas of shelter, all evaporated like liquid vapor right before my eyes.  Our new friends sensed this change in me and offered such neighborly love and comfort, that this gave me a brief respite.  Nunit’s daughter lives in Brussels so this too was quite close to his heart.  He passionately talked about his anger about this latest installment of events.  His starch anger contrasted vastly with my deep sorrow bordering on ego driven shattered pride.

In between this see- saw of emotions, we purchased the last of our trinkets and souvenirs for friends and family all the while, seriously contemplating if me, The Hubs or The Suitcase would truly make it home safely.

After our purchases, Nunit walked us around the corner to a local popular lunch spot.  It was all traditional dishes, colorful, tasty and cheap.  We ate in silence as my eyes darted around, every minute between ordinary chit chat mentally recording all my surroundings.  My fellow diners seemed to be doing the same.


On our way at the bottom of the hill, was a music store Natural Muzik  The Hubs- an avid guitar player wanted to give this Turkish guitar called a Baglama one last try.  The owner was very patient and determined to earn the Hubs business.  We sat in this cozy establishment, surrounded by beautiful Mulberry, Spruce and Juniper instruments- calm in the midst of the chaotic storm in my head.  The Hubs strummed away in Turkish melody.  The notes warmed my heart and offered for a small moment some calm in my muddled mind.


Convinced this was the Turkish bargain of the century, the Baglama was procured.  This musical indulgence replaced the cost of the Hammam adventure that we canceled on this day.  The Hammam, if you are unfamiliar to this as I was–is a Turkish bath experience. Our hotel offered a private Hammam, which we had scheduled on the inception of this trip  It includes a lot of nakedness on both parties –in this instance Hubs and I –separately- and the Hamman-ster (I know this is not the right phrase).  You are placed in a sauna type setting and basically have the first 3-4 layers of dermis sliced off like a cheese grater.  The Hubs, delicate like a Georgia peach had numerous concerns about this.  Ultimately, his concerns to me were validated with my research and so thus –our bathing escapade was thwarted.  It would have- in my opinion made great Blog content.  However, the sloughing was canceled –fortunately for the Hammam masters as The Girl and The Hubs would be something that they could never –un-see.

Baglama in tow, we made our way back to the hotel.  Off to our final meal for our trip, we went to Pera Thai  The restaurant was virtually empty.  We dined on some common Thai dishes with some uncommon, unknown flavors to us.  It was an interesting interpretation of Thai cuisine.  Over dinner, I continued to share my concerns with The Hubs, who offered support and encouragement.  It would be very hard if both of us were mentally and emotionally combusting, so I appreciated his strength and optimism at this time.

We made our way back taking in the last of the Istanbul skyline.  The Hagia Sofia perched up on the hill; all lit up like a warrior watching over its worried flock.  We winded around the Galata Tower, down the cobblestone 180 degree drop of the street back to the hotel.

Let me summarize this trip and Turkey-both separately.  This trip challenged my strength and my ability to overcome some very scary obstacles placed in our path.  Would I do this to myself again?  Have I tested the travel Gods too much this time?  Travel is never easy.  For me-travel is the art of learning new things, new cultures, different ways of life and exposure to the unknown.  Unfortunately, this trip was complicated by evil that exists in the world.  This form of evil will always be present in countless ways.  It is up to us, not just in travel, but in life to move through and beyond this to see all the beauty that truly exists in the world.

Turkey is a beautiful country, and Istanbul is a one of a kind city.  The Roman ruins that stand side by side overlooking a modern highway are a testament of this city’s survival.  Its bold colors from carpet to tile, its vibrant spices and simplicity of the food to the passion of the people are all apparent in their everyday representation of life.  Istanbul has carved out a special place in my heart-as a survivor, straddling two worlds and bridging these into one beautiful mosaic of culture.

See you in September 2016 Oslo &Norway… ~B&F


Categories: Istanbul, Turkey, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Trip Report 10 days in Hong Kong November 2015


This is a 10 day trip report. It is chuck full of goodies but is meant to be read in increments or you will be exhausted. Enjoy!

Hong Kong Trip Report November 2015

Day 1

Greetings from Hong Kong

This is a destination that has been on the bucket list for a long time, but for whatever reason always seemed unobtainable. This year due to our sad,sad dollar in Europe and cruddy exchange rate as well as stellar airfare for HK this endeavor was brought to reality.  I don’t have much to report tonight, but a little rundown is certainly warranted. Now, I never go into flight or journey details of what it takes to schlep the hubs and I thousands of miles, frankly because it is how most think of childbirth regarding the struggle and pain that must be abolished by the memory in order for survival of the species. However, for those who know me, much stress, anxiety and trepidation was had anticipating a 16 hour flight. So, I must report- the flight was delightful. Trying to outwit the airplane Gods, we selected our seats 7 months ago- an aisle and a window. Well the aircraft stars were aligned because the only spare seat on the plane was the one smack in the middle of me and the Hubs. Additionally, whether a flight is 2 hours, 4 or 16-it really is no difference. A good book, a couple movies, several naps, 2 meals and several anti-anxiety meds (physician prescribed) and before you know it the wheels are touching down.

We arrived in Hong Kong in the veil of black night and evening sky with golden twinkling boat lights illuminating the harbor like a game of battleship. I have never arrived in a city in darkness and it does add a feeling of mystery to it. We took an uneventful taxi ride into the city, me in the back seat, taking in the overwhelming lights and palpable energy. The taxi driver sitting in what should be the passenger seat as we Americans know it- on the “wrong side of the road” as HK was once a under British rule until 1997.  Lights pulsed from buildings as high as the eye could see, condominium high-rises flanked each side of the highway, my brain trying to take in the entire sensory overload.

We are staying at the Ovolo Central . This is a lovely hotel, modern clean and virtually every imaginary amenity you can imagine-including a free mini bar (including booze) restocked daily. We are on the 20th floor of this tall, slender, glass structure perched up on an elevated street. This is our home for the next 10 days.

A day and a half of travel really confuses one’s brain. Add a 13 hour time change and mood altering medications (prescribed by my Physician- people-and only for travel) makes decision making complicated. Sleep?Shower?Walk?Eat? After freshening up, we really wanted to get a lay of the land. So, we set out amidst all the activity of an energetic Friday night crowd. The buildings reminded me of a Jinga game, building after building on top of each other. We walked around while people spilled out from bars, snippets of conversations hung in the air and the overall humidity draped around my neck like a thick scarf. HK being a major metropolitan city contributed to the aromas that permeated the air. Indian food, Lebanese, pungent beer- all stirring up hunger that neither one of us were previously aware of.

Close to the hotel, actually next door was a cheeky, kitschy American diner-called The Diner . We sat in a red vinyl booth, with USA paraphernalia surrounding us as Laurel and Hardy served as background entertainment and ate –a Beet burger for me and Steak and eggs for the hubs. It was not bad, it was not great. Not what I would suggest on day one of an authentic Asian experience.

We are now calling it an early night tonight.

Tune in tomorrow for more tales of A girl, her hubs and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 2

Have you ever paid a stranger to fondle your ear lobes?  More to come regarding this but first -greetings from Hong Kong from your trusty blogger and travel extraordinaire. Come join me as I share the adventures of two Americans causing mischief across the Orient. This morning, was quite the typical travel sleep kerfuffle (for at least one in this duo). As we are located right in the hub of nightlife here in HK, the walls of this fine hotel were gyrating and shaking to the techno beat of dance music until 4am. Fortunate for them, I was on Eastern Standard Time and had no idea what time it was. My body clock was so confused that sleep was an elusive moving target. Eventually, the music stopped (in the wee hours of morning), right about the time I also realized the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit as the room was so cold it could have doubled as a meat locker.

Oh let’s talk about this shower….A lovely spa- like experience, a girthy shower where one can do a high kick if they felt inclined (not this gal) a Niagara water flow above, causing a magical cascade of water happiness. This shower has renewed my faith in all hotel showers. I was in hygiene heaven. Breakfast was served right next to the hotel in an airy café. A yummy buffet of tasty pastries, fresh fruit and made to order omelets was offered. This was all included in the price and fueled us for our long day ahead of us.

We strolled out into the thick humid air that oddly at 8:30 am was like a work weekday, with bustles of people flocking the sidewalks, synchronized marching purposefully with a mission. Not sure what that was since most of the stores were not even open. The sidewalks, shining and wet were being pressure washed, rinsing away the havoc of the previous evening’s debauchery, due to the outdoor alcohol consumption permitted here. As we walked down the many steps in the region of Lan Kwai Fong, shards of large glass carcasses were dutifully swept away, making room for future revelry.

We landed at a Starbuck’s, picking a window-side table providing ample people watching on the busy street below. We sat there two hours, enjoying the city hustle from our quiet little perch. In the same building, was our next event in which we will discuss the hidden art of finger lobe fondling and where to get this done if ever in need of this procedure in HK.

On my bucket list has always been to get a massage in a foreign land. The concept is so ridiculously indulgent that the idea has tantalized me for years. The Chinese are famous for the art of reflexology and so to me this was the perfect trip to bridge these two together.  We booked a medical massage and a foot reflexology massage at Gaos Foot Lank Kwai Fong . We were checked in and then they separated me and the hubs. In a small room I was led, with a woman that spoke no English. She barked harsh phrases and pointed non- sensibly to me and my clothing. I am still unsure as to what the commands were. I was thrusted face down on the table and this tiny 90 pound woman began to pummel me with her tiny hands, kneading her little digits into crevices creating charges of electrifying pain in areas I did not know existed. I yelped, moaned and even prayed –wondering what I did to this lady to deserve this. That is when the finger made its way into my inner ear and lingered several seconds to long caressing my ear lobes, in a rather Mr. Bean meets masseuse scenario. The hubs was not subjected to any inappropriate ear action.

This experience went on for 45 glorious minutes. I was then escorted out to another area where the hubs (who apparently had a very similar experience-sans ear lobe pokage) sat shell-shocked in a leather recliner. From there, the punishers immersed our feet into a hot bucket of soapy water and were layered with soothing, warm pads that draped our neck and shoulders. We were given some Chinese herbal tea while fake birds chirped in unison creating a bit of a Shangri-La type moment. We were massaged and caressed, a magical oil slathered on our feet washing away the previous memory of the torturing on the massage table just minutes before.

The services itself were quite economical and the foot portion was very enjoyable. If ever in HK, this is a must do-but just be prepared. This is not your Red Door Spa moment with eucalyptus permeating the air, hot fluffy towels and a nice thick robe. This is the real deal, no frills, work out the kinks and deal with the consequences later type of massage. Just know, you may stir something up, that you may not want to disturb. After the event, the hubs was curiously nauseous and his belly was quite unsettled. I was a bit jarred and hurt in odd areas and still a bit traumatized by the knuckle popping techniques experimented on me. Other than that, it was a lovely experience.

From there, anxious to test out our newly renovated joints we began to walk on foot and “just get lost”. We made our way to the harbor. We took the ferry across the harbor to the neighborhood of Kowloon. The water on the harbor illuminated an eerie aqua marine hue. The waterway was ripe with activity. Ferries criss- crossing this rather short distance, making the waves choppy and rambunctious. The heat at this point was nearly oppressive and made me long for the “cool” climate of my home base in Tampa, Florida! Make-up, smelling nice and any picturesque moments was curtailed by the weighty sledge hammer of humidity.

Disembarking from the quick 3 minute ferry in Kowloon, we sought cover in an air conditioned mall. We found an outdoor balcony overlooking the harbor and ate a quick snack, soaking in the pleasant view. We made our way back to the ferry, back to Hong Kong Island, traipsing up the many, many steps (much easier going down than up) back to our oasis of the hotel.

We took heavenly (much needed) showers and took a luxurious nap, exhausted by the day’s events. Invigorated we ventured out into the Saturday night madness of Lan Kwai Fong (aka—party city). The scene is really indescribable but I will try. The energy is electric. The music pulses into your body at a cellular level. It is a diverse crowd but mostly young, good looking and care free. Awww, youth. The scent is varied and noxious at times. A combination of testosterone, rotting fish, stale alcohol and an occasional tantalizing aroma of many foods, grease, and sweat. The music is wide-ranging and each bar, restaurant and shop offers different sounds. The Doors, love me two times with that great guitar riff followed by salsa music next door. Then, in comes the thump, thump, thump of a techno dance beat that melds in with your atrial lub dub and this goes on all night (as mentioned earlier).

Our beloved nephew- shout out Kevin H. recommended his favorite Thai restaurant Café Siam . After last night’s diner debacle (although, not bad-just not Asian) we checked it out. On the third floor of the building is this small intimate restaurant. Tables with window seats, displaying all the craziness below offer a bird’s eye view, in a peaceful respite. Trying to be a bit outside our wheelhouse, we went with unfamiliar dishes. There is a definite difference between American Thai cuisine and Authentic Asian fare. I ate a tasty salad with peanut dressing and had a curry eggplant dish. The hubs had a prawn appetizer wrapped in an item that resembled locks of golden curly hair. The meal was relatively affordable, the atmosphere was perfect and the portions were enormous.

After dinner, we hung out for a bit soaking up all the liveliness of the crowd. We made our way slowly up the 50 cagillion steps back to the hotel. Day 2 was full of fun, food and fabulousness.

Please tune in for tomorrow’s installment of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 3

First rule of travel-be flexible with your expectations. This has been a tough lesson to learn but over the years, I have been forced to be at peace with disappointment, plans gone amuck and moving to plan B quickly. Today was a perfect example of this. Our original plan was to go a Viator excursion highlighting World War II famous locations and such. The company in my personal opinion is a bit sketch and I would recommend that you avoid using this untrusting company.  They had rescheduled our original date to suit their needs. In addition, the tour was prepaid. It was a 4 hour tour and we woke up early to make it to the meeting place at 8:30 am. The meeting place was at the Postal office, and as luck would have it-there happen to be 2 postal offices within 3 blocks of each other. We apparently were at the wrong one. We waited 30 minutes and then resigned that this was not happening. We immediately started to rethink the day (Let me just add here, too-the tour was prepaid and sadly non-refundable).

We made our way to the ferry with the hope of going to one of the bordering islands off of HK. Lantau is reachable by ferry, a pleasant 30 minute ride across the harbor. We made a split impromptu decision and we were off. From the ferry, we took a bus up the mountain. This was another 30 minute drive up harrowing ,curvey roades and well worth the $14 per person round trip.

The bus drops you off right at the base of the village, with the Big Buddah statue shadowing everything else. The Big Buddah commands the area, bringing worshippers out from all over the world. It is relatively young (1993) but serves as a spiritual source of worship and luck for the devoted. Along the grounds of the statue are walking trails, ornate temples and oddly feral extremely tame cattle. They share the paths with stray dogs, the docile Monks on the property and annoying tourists, poking their steers and appallingly posing for selfies. Yours truly has a video with one as I made blubbering conversation and inquired if she-he spoke English?

After viewing some of the temples, we made our way to a vegetarian counter and purchased some authentic Asian light fare. Incents permeated the air causing a foggy visual residue. After much debate, I climbed the 268 steps in 90 degree weather to fully grasp the size and scope of the statue as well as the impressive views. And, indeed it was. Little old ladies with hunched backs and escorts bypassed me on one side, as blind men tapping their canes sidestepped me as I clung onto the railing heaving my chest and silently counting my pulse. Eventually, I made it to the top. The hubs and I rejoiced (being as August I had knee surgery and had to relearn how to walk up and down steps). We soaked in the sights and slowly scaled our way down the steps-going down much easier.

We toured the grounds of the village, making a few purchases eventually finding our way back to the bus, down the 30 minute journey to the ferry. This was followed by the 30 minute ferry ride back to HK Island. From there, we trudged through town craving good old fashioned Udon noodles.

We stopped at a divvy bar called The Hong Kong Brew House just in time for the hipsters to start their night. Peanuts on the floor and a grit that probably never leaves- we relaxed our feet and the hubs had a beer. I had a“Lemonade” that was clearly 7up. The exhaustion began to penetrate my bones. From there, we went to an establishment called Crab Noodles  The pungent smell of (surprisingly) crab permeated the small space and the slurping, fishy odor and odd meal selection choices prompted me to change my mind. So, we trudged on back to the hotel with a light snack of cheese crackers purely for substance.  The day was full, and no meal could really have enhanced it any further.

We are calling it an early night as sunburn has made a mark on my virgin skin, the feet are beyond tired, swollen and on the verge of blisters. One side note, I want to add. This lovely hotel we are staying at, I complained about the all-night concert until 4am every day. Well, the room is equipped with fancy noise blocking curtains that are remote controlled. So, I wish to retract my statement as with this fancy piece of equipment resolved the all night madness pervading my dreams and disrupting my valuable rest.

Thanks for tuning in

Check in tomorrow for more fabulous tales of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report November 2015

Day 4

Sometimes all good things must come to an end…(sigh)-or at least a pause, which is the case of my shower jubilation. If you recall in a previous blog entry I blathered on in detail about the “heavenly hygiene”, cascade of liquid loveliness, waterfall wonderfulness….Well, the flood kind of impeded that.  Mid lather, the hubs starts banging on the bathroom door and apparently, I was submerging the whole blessed room. Suds in the eyes, and task incomplete, the shower situation was aborted-apparently, the bedroom had turned into a swamp.

Of course, this magnificent hotel that I really must continually rave about, drummed up their emergency SWAT team (aka, maid/plumber) because after an enjoyable breakfast, minus some soapy residue on your truly-the shower was magically fixed and the floor was a buffed shine. Not one remanence of an aquatic disaster.

After our eventful morning, we made our way back to the ferry to Kowloon  to visit The History Museum of Hong Kong . Now, I am certain we made life much harder on ourselves than necessary getting to this place, as we are still learning the lay of the land. But, just picture the hottest summer day, intense sun bearing down-like an ant under a magnifying glass. That is what the Hong Kong sun feels like. Now, I am no stranger to intense heat, as I live in Florida-but was unprepared for this amount of sweating that has occurred on this trip. We made our way, pounding the pavement, the pedometer tallying up on the abundance of steps- eventually to our destination. I must pause here and really praise the fine people of Hong Kong. Many times, during this trip we have been lost, disoriented, trying to gather our surroundings. Countless times, an individual has stopped us and even escorted us many blocks to where we needed to go. One young gentleman walked with us for 20 minutes, friendly chatter the whole time. For this wayfinding phenomenon, I give major thanks.

We eventually arrived at the museum, hot, slightly bothered but ready to take on the exciting history of Hong Kong. The hubs and I were both granted discounts, which made this activity quite economical; again that Masters is sure paying off…. We made our way to the comfy café to cool down and I had an interesting “pineapple ice” drink. Nothing fancy here-literally a large glass of ice, with a can of pineapple and juice. So simple, but cooled my inner core about 10 degrees instantly.

The museum is very large, open and extensive. It takes one chronologically through Hong Kong history literally starting with the rock formation 400,000,000 years ago and ending with the unification of China back into the hands of the Chinese government in 1997. It is very interactive and one feels as if they are a part of the displays as life in Hong Kong. It is bright, vibrant, vivid and multi-sensory with music, video documentary and an abundance of information. We spent roughly 4.5 enjoyable hours there.

Venturing out from there, we made our way slowly and rather unsurely to the Jade Market . This became a mission of mine, and the hubs was very determined in getting me there. We figured out- somewhat the MTR train system and eventually made our way into the crowded and popular market district.

Walking through these open air bazaars is a true experience. Booths with raw chickens hanging, tables of every vegetable you can imagine, strange herbs and fish, right next to bras and underwear. The smells were overpowering at times, from briny fish to musty mothball. It was a shopping frenzy, and fortunately for me, there was zero shopping interest in any of it. Not even the raw chicken!

Eventually we made it to the Jade Market, a green stone that is popular in China. I was requested from my friend back home-shout out to Bryn-to obtain a Jade bangle. Upon entry we were accosted immediately by a feisty lady, who immediately became my best friend. Urgent for me to purchase anything and everything she began tossing Jade items at me. The hubs, overwhelmed by her energetic selling techniques ventured off only to be hounded himself by another fierce competitor. I finally settled on a bangle, and now the haggling began. “Best offer” she barked over and over thrusting a calculator at me. We eventually after much back and forth- determined a suitable price. I still am not sure what I paid, but I know it was less than half of her original offer. I then started looking for a pair of earrings. My new pal for life, she says to me “you are now a returning customer; I give you the best price.” More calculator hot potato tossing ensued until eventually, she resigned due to the market closing. Upon leaving, I realized all my Hong Kong currency was tapped out. Good for her, my offers weren’t any higher.

After the exhausting negotiations, draining heat, intensifying crowds, noisy traffic, oh and did I mention empty stomach, dehydrated kidneys and throbbing feet— I was spent. The only problem was we were far, far, far from our hotel. Being as the hotel is on an island, we had to get to the ferry. Fueled by sheer determination, my feet trudged on, passing hipsters glued to their phones, eventually making our way back to our home base.

At this point, it was time for dinner. We settled upon a lovely Thai Malaysian restaurant called Good Luck Thai nestled on the same street as our previous Thai excursion. Sitting side by side on a comfy couch, we hydrated on beer, water and apple cider, taking advantage of their happy hour. The menu was unique including Indian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. We enjoyed some yummy Roti (Indian bread) as well as Pad Thai and the hubs had a very spicy Masala dish that required extra beer to temper the heat. The meal, atmosphere and service were top notch.

Fully satiated we made our way up the many steps, back to the hotel to rest for the remainder of the evening. It was a tiring day but well worth the effort for the outcome.

Tune in for more tales of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 5

I have found a new form of meditation. It is called Monkey watching. Consider me your modern day Sigmund Freud. I could create world peace with my concept I am certain.  But, let me back up a bit.

This morning they were no plumbing catastrophes or drainage disasters. Yippee. Oh well, actually a minor one. Our lovely hotel, have I mentioned how much I love this hotel? One of its selling points is you can do your laundry for free on the premises. So, this morning, biohazard garments in hand-I proceeded to wash the dirty clothes. Upon starting the machine, copious amounts of soap began to erupt from the machine. Bubbles percolated everywhere under the contraption, dripping down the appliance. I beckoned for help and my new best friend; the poor front desk gentleman seemed perplexed. I silently prayed that he was not the poor sap that had heard my cries of panic yesterday during the battle of Waterloo.

Crisis averted- a mandatory task was accomplished. When traveling for ten days, laundry must be a consideration and unfortunately time must be allocated for such menial duties. The front desk manager during the folding of the underwear recommended several good suggestions for activities for the day. Taking his ideas, we formulated a plan.

Right down the street from our hotel a quick 10 minute walk– all uphill, is the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens and Zoo . The gardens wind around and unfold like an origami layer by layer, subtlety until brilliant flowers, fragrant smells, and plush vegetation surround you. Turn the corner and low and behold (to my delight) in a cage were monkeys swinging from a vine, catapulting in their enclosure like professional acrobats. In their little sanctuary, all sorts of mayhem and hijinks ensued. They held a captive audience, each spectator mouth open, pointing enthusiastically, secretly wishing they could propel themselves in a similar fashion. Around us, school age children shouted in glee, some in English, some in Chinese-demonstrating that joyfulness is a universal language.

For those who know the hubs, I lovingly refer to him as “monkey”, due to his springy agility and mysterious skills to climb furniture in a rather vertical fashion. So, having him in his “natural habitat” brought great pleasure to both of us. We sat there mesmerized with the performance, waiting for the monkeys to tire. This never happened- at least on our watch. We made a brief stop to the indifferent and visibly bored orangutans and then swung over to the aviary equally impressed by the tranquility of the graceful birds. This activity is free to the public, and well worth the time we spent there. It is a beautiful oasis in the chaos of the city. It allowed my brain to decompress from all the over-stimulation and constant motion, compelling me to embrace my inner child and remember the joy these similar activities had offered me in my youth.

From there, our next stop was to visit Victoria Peak Slightly lost (and lacking a map- a common theme for us) we kindly asked a lovely woman to point us in the right direction. Again, just as in our other experiences, this lady escorted us down steps, winding roads and hilly pavements, all with yours truly lugging behind at a snail’s pace (remember the knee mentioned earlier). She went out of her way to ensure we got to a safe disembarking point and as if like a gift from the Gods, she disappeared down the busy street like a dreamy mirage.

Victoria Peak is the highest point on the island and if there is only one thing you do while in HK-this should be it. The easiest way (and by far the most interesting) is by tram It is a cable car that is over 120 years old and takes you on an 8 minute steady 27 degree incline up to the top. As the cable car ascends, an odd sensation of the world turning on its access begins to take place. Bypassing monolithic high-rises, the slender towers begin to appear as if they are on an angle verses the occupants in the tram. It is an overall dizzying experience, almost un-worldly and literally offers a bird’s eye view of the entire island.

Once off the tram, the topography and weather system dramatically change. Welcoming balmy breezes embrace me and lush greenery, jagged ancient rock and the feeling as if I am suspended in a cloud overwhelms me. Oddly enough, once you exit from the tram, strategically placed is a colossal shopping mall. As if when I am at the pinnacle of Mother Nature, just what I want to do is shop for the same garbage I can get on any Saturday in suburbia. That part was a bit off-putting, however, with the temptation there and lacking any willpower, I did contribute to the financial commerce of Victoria Peak. Tour groups were abundant and annoying as usual, causing me to whisper a grateful side note to myself-that I have the best tour guide around-the Hubs of course.

Speaking of commercialism at its finest, from there we lounged around, resting our feet and soaking up the views from Starbuck’s. We had an indulgent light snack to refuel and ending our sojourn up the peak with a calming walk down a secluded path-away from all the tour madness and hubbub.

We took the tram down, as equally enjoyable and mild altering as the ride up. From there, we made our way back to the hotel to shower and rest. Later that evening, we dined at Jashan  A welcoming surprise as the choice was derived purely out of hunger and desperation- turned out to be a wise decision. It is a cozy restaurant with views below of the trendy Lan Kwai Fong area. We were placed in a comfy corner table plush with silky pillows and the glow of candlelight. The Indian spices delightfully penetrated my olfactory nerves and hunger kicked in ferociously. We ordered our usual favorite Indian dishes and savored every morsel. If ever in HK and hankering some yummy Indian fare as well as some romantic ambiance, I highly suggest this as a first choice.

Tired, wholly content and ready to call it a night we made our way back in the balmy night. May I add here, as you all had to endure the relentless commentary regarding humidity, sweat, blah,blah, blah…. The weather today was absolutely delightful. A cool breeze, a so welcome reprieve from the strangulating humidity fell over the city, all day with a threat of grey sky and rain. But, it never did rain and only offered a much desired pardon from the persistent and pervasive hotness.

Tune in for more tales of A Girl, Her Hubs (the “monkey”) and a Suitcase…………

~B& F~

Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 6

Balance is necessary for travel- action vs. rest, exhaustion vs. meditation, culture vs. mindless decadence. The daily desires vary on a trip and this is what adds life each day to a new adventure. Stacking too many things on top of one another, running from site to site just to check off a list dilutes the experience and eventually wears away the love of travel. I have learned this lesson the hard way. The purpose behind my blog is to add a bit of humor through the lens of travel, but mostly to save you-my reader from the hardships and mistakes I have made along the way.

Today was a day aimed at balance. This morning we began the day at Starbuck’s. Located in the same building as the foot massage establishment- The hubs coyly comments “if you want another massage, we have some time to kill.” Well, even though the full body massage was a slightly traumatic event, the foot reflexology part was enormously pleasurable. Worried if I hesitated, the offer would vanish, I immediately accepted the generous proposal.

Back to Gao’s Foot Massage where they immediately took me back, propped up my feet and went to work. The hubs sat beside me, opting out on the luxurious act but my co-pilot on this somatic joy ride. The petite, sadistic lady’s fingers manipulated my feet creating euphoric feelings of delight followed by piercing jolts of agony. As I grimaced, it tended to encourage her to dig deeper- the howling, jerking and contorting only prompted a sinister giggle and more intense prodding. Meanwhile, the hubs sat next to me reading a book and appeared way more zen than I. However, in spite of all the negative commentary, afterwards I felt rejuvenated, recharged and ready to take on our next caper.

Uber car service-life changing. Using the handy dandy app on the phone, within minutes a man named Alex in a fancy Tesla showed up escorting us to Stanley  our destination for the day. An enjoyable and stress free 20 minute ride with friendly conversation flowed as we passed homes of the richest of the rich in Hong Kong. Waterfront mansions dotted the shoreline of Deep Water Bay Arriving to our destination from a driver was a luxury that was not lost on us.

Stanley is a picturesque seaside village but more importantly the last stand for the British troops before surrendering to the Japanese during the war in 1941. This fact really resonated with us as today is Veteran’s Day. May I add at this point, we arrived at Stanley oddly 11:11 on 11/11, which is consistent with when World War I hostilities ceased at this precise time.

We walked around the promenade along the water’s edge, the salty seaside feel and boardwalk conjuring up childhood memories of the shore. Tucked away, at the end of a path was Pak Tai Temple The aquamarine water lapped along the rocky shore line. Tranquility washed over me, flooding me with emotional gratitude.

Hunger began to settle in, and consulting our guide book a rather unconventional restaurant was suggested King Ludwig’s Beerhall . Ok, I know at this moment you are reconsidering reading further-German food in HK? Maybe not our best decision, but some positive aspects here-the view was stellar, widespread seaside vistas, beer was exceptional and the food particularly good. The pretzel starter was an epic disappointment, however the potato pancakes were quite good and the hubs Pork Knuckle, although “gamey” was one for the books! This meal would carry us through for the next 12 hours and so add fulling to the bill. Interestingly to add- this major military building The Murray House which the restaurant is located in, dates back from 1844 and was relocated from a different location then put back together at this site.

We walked along the street making our way to Stanley Military Cemetery cemetery/cemetery/49428/Stanley%20Military%20Cemetery. Honoring Veterans in some way on this day was essential for us. We walked along the many gravestones, mostly young soldiers. It was very sobering and forced me to re-focus on what this day is about.

We made our way back to the markets where activity was bustling. Everyone told us this is where you go for anything you want to purchase. A couple items were taken off my list and I am proud to report my bargaining skills were very impressive.

We took the crowded (but cheap) bus back to our home base. Back at the hotel rest was necessary due to the 6 days of vacationing catching up with us. Apparently more than we knew as we slept awaking several hours later skipping dinner and calling it an early low key night.

Tune in for more tantalizing tales of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 7


After a much needed slumber, we awoke bright and early along with all the other worker-bees (very industrious group of peeps here) to set out on our day trip excursion. May I add here, there is no behind the scenes travel agent, not even Rick Steves assisting us on this trip. The hubs- tourism aficionado, does all the research, creates a very well organized itinerary, and structures the entire schedule. Add this to many of his extraordinary skills including furniture climbing, guitar playing and my designated paparazzi for all events. My writing and relentless complaining as well as a reliable depletion of all fiscal funds are my contribution. I would say it is an even balance.

We took an Uber to the ferry  to go to the Island of Macau Macau is a Portuguese settlement and is a hybrid of sorts between China and Portugal. Both influences make up this unique country. If doing this excursion, be mindful that you need your passport and go through a customs process upon entry and egress. Also, there is a different form of currency, but they gladly accept HK$, but not vice versa upon your return to HK.

We purchased our tickets and were shuffled rather quickly onto the ferry. The whole process for boarding took less than 5 minutes. It is a comfortable ride and due to a recent ferry tragedy, the turbo didn’t feel so turbo. It was rather a slow ride, a little over an hour. The gentle rocking movement served as a lullaby, as the hubs and I quickly fell asleep.

Disembarking off the port- mayhem, crowds and pesky hawkers swarm you. The attraction to this area is it is the only legal gambling in China, which makes it a very popular destination- the “Las Vegas of Asia”. We quickly made our way onto a taxi and a quick 10 minute ride brought us into the main hub- the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral’s-2-14-6.html . The eerie carcass of a 17th century church that burned only remains. It stands tall and proud and represents a culture equally as resilient. Selfie sticks poking from all angles (including yours truly) all fighting for the perfect Kodak moment.

On the same grounds, situated within the Montes Fortress we made our way to the Museum of Macau . It is a fine representation of the rich history of Macau and its people. Outside on the top floor, part of the Montes Fortress also from the 17th century served as a military center. There was also a historic battle- a small victory involved the Dutch Military. Large cannons dot the area that provides a breeding ground of picture taking. The views of the city are abundant here and there is a mish mash of old verses new. Big, ostentatious gold buildings shadow over old tenements adorned with laundry.

We made our way into the center of the village, many steps leading us down into a mecca of stores. The crowds at this point had overtaken the area, massive tour groups scurrying for their leader. We eagerly moved past this heading towards the casinos. Hunger kicking in and concerned with appealing options, we gratefully saw a massive sign of the MGM Grand off in the distance. Like a mirage in the desert, we migrated to it- a piece of familiarity in an unknown land.

Eventually after much pavement pounding, we made our way to MGM Grand. We were greeted by the loud rhythmic sounds of slot machines, bright lights of a casino floor and the lazy indifferent gamblers getting their fix. It was a vast difference from the atmosphere moments before in the main square. The contrasts was not lost on us.

Through the glass, a chorus line of buffet delicacies called to us. We dined at Rossio A procession of indulgences displayed on tables- an abundant cornucopia of delights. We don’t need to go into the food sloth of details here but will refer to an appropriate borrowed Vegas saying “What happens in Rossio- stays in Rossio”. Our waitress was a real treasure and gave outstanding service and truly represents the kind people of Macau.

Here is where you are asking-“did you gamble”? We are such amateurs that sadly we could not even find the hole to put the coin. Are coins even used anymore for slot machines? We sat perplexed shoving our useless Macau money in every orifice we could find. Ultimately determining that we are gambling morons and aborting. I am sure this was all captured on video surveillance and was the entertainment of the crew for the day. My own family employed in the casino industry must be shaking their own heads in shame.

When and if you go to Macau, know that if you have any intention of visiting a casino they will provide the shuttle back and forth to the port. We found this out too late for our taxi arrival into the city, but did take advantage using this service back to the port.

With 4 Macanese coins left in my pocket and a full (rumbling) belly we headed back to the port. With just minutes to spare, back on the Ferry and eventually back to HK. The whole outing- a full work day, 8 hours was more than enough. Tired, heartburn and mildly seasick we taxied back to hotel for an early evening.

Tune in tomorrow for more tales of A Girl, Her Hubs (love him!) and a Suitcase


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 8

Sleep. My sleep is so very messed up. It is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time which is what I am used to. I believe I adjusted fairly quickly with almost no jet lag, except I am sleeping at 7:30 pm and then up at 2:30 am. This is why when YOU are ending your work day-boom pops up another travel report magically. Just picture me, half way around the world (depending on where you are reading this from) typing my tired little fingers away-all for the hopes that my moronic mishaps will be to your benefit. Currently, my sad tired bones have been awake almost shy of 24 hours. But, I am diligently multitasking by performing my blogging duties as well as laundry. And, yes once again-like Groundhog Day, I put in too much detergent and caused a bubble-tastrophe -same clerk on duty – same indifferent nod.

Today was not my finest moment. In fact, I am not sure what to make of it. Let me begin and chime in whenever you see fit. Over our same cheese omelet that we have eaten consistently for 7 days, as well as the same occupants that have sat next to us and ignored us, we derived our layout for the day. With only a few things left on our list to do, we decided to knock out one of the more intimidating ones-hike Dragon back trail, which is located in Shek O Country Park. Having done virtually zero research, we contacted Uber to get us to the park. The driver had never been to the park, knew the address nor knew how to go (this should have been our first warning). He googled the address and using his phone to navigate proceeded to drive us there.

Now, small detail, we never requested that he drop us off at the entrance. This is equivalent to asking a taxi to take you to The Grand Canyon. There are many entrances and areas to enter. Long story short, Uber was a fail, followed by a taxi epic fail, resulting in going up the down staircase scenario of the Dragon back trail (most certainly not the preferred approach).

All the reviews rave about the scenic, breathtaking views of Big Wave Buy-unfortunately, we never reached this. We trekked through deep brush, subterranean tangled vines imbedded in the ground, causing a “tight-rope” balancing act. It was similar to a video game -each level of hell producing more havoc. Jagged rocks screaming for an ankle injury mocked me, bees buzzing frenetically in circular round-abouts causing me to frantically swat and swipe in mania. Then, the rain came causing the already treacherous rocks to be slippery death stones. School kids came in masses the opposite direction leapfrogging mindlessly as I was clinging onto a tree branch praying to the Big Buddha. Now, you ask where was the hubs during this bedlam? Well, those climbing skills and agility come in handy and he was constantly waiting for me (always the weakest link), watching with patience as I cursed the Trip advisor review rating the difficulty of this hike a 5. How dare they!

The overgrowth of herbaceous border created an umbrella effect trapping the insane humidity making the atmosphere a sauna. Sweat dripped off me as I had never experienced. After almost 3 hours on the trail (the review said a breezy 2 hour stroll!) passing many hikers who assured us there was no view for a “kilometer”, which seemed to be there measurement for everything (even though it was sufficiently triple that)- we officially gave up. But, when in the woods in heavy brush and one decides they have had enough-it is not as simple as calling Uber-Um, yes I am between the 16 inch spider and the beige rock….

Therefore, we had to turn around and backtrack the 3.5 kilometers that we had already hiked. Just to understand our frustration, please read below as this was my expectation….

According to the discover Hong Kong website-this is how it is described:

A lovely cool path takes us through shady groves of bamboo and lush woodland, accompanied by birdsongs. You will emerge into open hillsides often covered with wild azaleas or rose myrtle. Reaching the spectacular Shek O Country Park, you will follow rugged undulating spinal ridge of the Dragon’s Back. From the ridge there are spectacular views eastwards to Clear Water Bay Peninsula and islands in the eastern sea approaches to Hong Kong. To the west, there are views of Stanley Peninsula and the South China Sea. At the foot of the Dragon’s Back is the popular village Shek O with its sandy beaches and alfresco restaurants. You will finish the walk by strolling through shaded tunnels of exotic vegetation. Then take transport back to Central, Hong Kong.

From there, I am not proud of this, but by accident, we stole someone’s taxi. They had pre-called and became just a case of mistaken identity and we were off. We took the taxi to the MTR train station. From there, in our sweaty, aromatic disgustingness we took the train to the hotel.

We stopped at Starbucks, had a quick, light snack and back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening’s activities. We had tickets to see The Chieftain’s  The Chieftains is an Irish band that dates back from the 60’s. This activity does not scream Hong Kong, but again HK is a major international city that has world class entertainment. And, that is what this was.

Again, taxi failure was the theme for the evening. All week, humidity has hung over the city like a heavy blanket. This evening the flood gates opened and it began to pour. The combination of Friday evening (pre-weekend) craziness and the in-climate weather made it virtually impossible to obtain a cab. Wi-Fi has been unreliable internationally so Uber was out and additionally had a 3x markup, also for the weekend. We waited in the pouring rain with the lovely hotel attendant Mink, trying desperately to careen a cab. Over and over again, we were ignored, snarled at or another person would run and steal the cab. It was infuriating. After 20 minutes of this nonsense, we decided with the traffic moving at a crawl pace anyways-we would simply walk to the venue.

Our lovely hotel attendant Mink trailed the way even though she was officially off the clock. Again, I share this as another symbol of the kindness of the HK people. She took us the whole rout, clearly out of her way-simply to do a kind act. At our destination, she refused any kind of compensation, bowed to us and scurried away. It truly was one of the most unselfish acts and quickly evaporated the taxi turmoil from previously.

The Chieftains were playing at City Hall Concert Hall a rather no frills concert hall. We had unbelievable seats for an even more incredible price of $20 a piece-I believe. The concert was simply magnificent. They clearly have a recipe for success that works due to their longevity. The Irish music was festive and celebratory involving full participation from the audience. In their acts, they included local talent such as a HK children’s choir, a dance troupe, and a mesmerizing bag pipe crew. He weaved lively stories in with the musical numbers name dropping multiple times his encounters with entertainment royalty such as Sting, The Rolling Stones and even Paul McCartney. At one point, the dancers ran through the audience grabbing individuals -an Irish conga line of sorts erupted and by the end of the evening my hands were sore from clapping.

The ultimate ending of the show included an intimate Q&A with the leader of the band. A small group stayed behind and he answered random questions and even offered more insight of his long-lasting staying power. This was the highlight of the show and possibly the day.

Outside we were overcome with the bright lights of HK at night. Up until now, we had not truly seen the entire scope of color, electricity and excitement. A laser show of sorts illuminated the HK sky as high rises turn into a star wars night show -each building having its own unique personality brightening the evening sky.

The buzz of the night crowd, awakened hunger in us and again began the forage for food. Having exhausted all options in the area we were walking, we decided to try a place close to our hotel. It turned out to be a very wise decision.

We went to a popular and trendy Lebanese establishment called The Sultan’s Table (no website link found). Just 2 doors down from our hotel, the teak tables and hookah mist greet you. The food was for the books-a fresh cold appetizer of tangy, salty feta cheese and ripe tomatoes followed by a grilled assortment of vegetables and pungent rice. The hipsters were out in full force blowing aromatic smoke rings from their smoking contractions. Loud pounding music vibrated the walls as the hubs and I screamed to each other in an effort to converse, competing with the pulsating techno beat.

At this point it was past midnight, it had been a long and full day. We finished the meal off with some tasty morsels of honey drenched baklava and Turkish coffee.

Tune in for more tales of A Girl (actually an old broad with muscles aching, back twitching &, ankle throbbing) Her Hubs (suffering from a rip roaring Charley horse) and a suitcase (which all of the contents are toxic from sweat)


Hong Kong Trip Report

November 2015

Day 9 & 10

Final Blog Entry

Lines….the bane of my existence- the hubs, I and a newly acquired friend experienced a queue like no other yesterday. I am telling this story in hopes that you, my fellow reader can benefit from our poorly chosen path.

We had earlier in the trip taken a day excursion to Lantau  (refer to Day 3) and had enjoyed ourselves so much we wished to replicate the day, in an altered fashion. It had been suggested to us from individuals that apparently thought they were wiser (hmmmph…) – to take the MTR train to the “sky ride”  to Lantau verses the ferry followed by the bus to get there (which was our original route).

The train portion was uneventful. But, as we entered the np360 cable car line, we were greeted by a 90 minute wait sign. Our eyes squinted up to see rows of people filed up as far as the eye could see. Eager families clustered and huddled, armed for battle with fanny packs, coolers and selfie sticks. These people were in it for the long haul. Behind us in the line was a lovely young lady named Adele from the Czeck Republic. We immediately connected and swapped travel stories as she is a “Mary Poppins” of sorts teaching some very fortunate Chinese children English in their home. Her life accounts were fascinating as she travels the globe and does this all in her young age of 24 years old. The sun beamed down on us with no evidence of future shade, but her anecdotes were so alluring that we did not notice the time passing by. As the line curled around misleading us with illusive techniques, the hours ticked on by. Before we knew it, 3 hours had clicked away. A staggering amount of people behind us and an overwhelming surplus of persons in front, we were sandwiched in a communal nightmare.

This “agony” became a bonding experience for us as our muscles, backs and legs twitched in pain and fatigue. Like flamingos, perched on one leg, we balanced our exhaustion, second (and third) guessing our pitiful preparation for this choice. Many times, we discussed shelving this horrible idea and improvising an alternate plan. But, again, we felt committed and all of us shared this dreamy fantasy of the promising views the sky ride would offer.

After 4 hours, ticket in hand (10 times the price of the bus and ferry) we boarded our cabin with other occupants they crammed in there and the tacky photographer said “smile” as the hubs restrained himself from strangling the poor sap. The sky ride is 25 minutes and does have amazing views, however, there is little air circulation and the views are dotted through hand- smeared, unclean windows. Big Buddha peering his head about half way through causing an eerie silhouette across the grassy mountain. Sunset was approaching, which did add a certain magical element, but all in all-the 4-5 hours wait (I lost count at some point) of  an aching back , numb feet, screaming bladder, all in a germ festering gathering in the ungodly heat as well as paying a ridiculous amount, make this experience a major thumbs down.

Arriving at the village, we parted ways with our new pal, Adele. Our main focus was on some good old fashioned retail therapy. Having many peeps on the list to bring back some useless piece of junk, that will most likely end up at next year’s garage sale was imperative. Many times, the hubs is useful in thwarting these impulses-but in this instance he was ready to get his “shop” on.

The hubs invested previously in a traditional straw hat on the prior expedition. But, why should one straw hat be sufficient? Another one was purchased as well as some other useless trinkets. Meandering from store to store, we mindlessly browsed until stores began to close. Our delicious vegetarian Chinese market we had frequented previously was also sadly closed. We had looked forward to some more delicious traditional Chinese cuisine.

Walking towards the Big Buddha (like pros as we were now repeat customers) we found our friend Adele. She had completed all her tasks on her to do list, having strolled up those 268 steps- a whole lot quicker than yours truly. We bumped into some handsome monks in their finest burlap and made friends quickly. They took pictures of us as I revealed jokingly that Adele was a famous movie star from the Czech Republic. She posed convincingly, playing along-all in good fun.

We made our way back to the crowded bus (bypassing a repeat 4 hour wait back on the sky ride). The relaxing ride down the mountain allowed for some much needed rest- cat napping the entire way. From there, we hopped on the ferry. The sky was black and the air was salty- soothing sounds of water and waves lapping against the ferry lulled me into more inertia. A quick 25 minutes later, the hustle bustle of lights and flashing neon alerted us that we were back on the island.

Parting ways with our new pal, we exchanged emails and promised to stay in touch. In all honesty, she served as a valuable life preserver. Creating laughter, comradery and much needed distraction. Traveling even with the companionship of the amazing hubs, sometimes generates a feeling of loneliness-being in a foreign country lacking the comforts and familiarity of home. Even though our worlds could not have been more different, we shared a common humanity that altered the course of the day.

Exhausted, hot, and sunburned (the theme of the trip at times) we realized we had not eaten. We found a lovely restaurant within the ferry terminal called The French Window  . A beautiful restaurant with a full landscape of HK harbor all lit up. The place was very chic, open and inviting. We dined on delicious, fairly light gastronomy. The service was impeccable and the views spectacular. However, it was quite pricey and proved to be our most expensive meal. Balancing that with being our only paid meal for the day justified the indulgence.

At this point, my legs were rubber, back was in spasm-mode and my joints were not cooperating. The hubs alert to my pathetic state summoned a taxi that shuttled us up the hill back to the hotel. I slowly moseyed to the room and collapsed on the bed. Blog was suspended last night due to total body system failure as well as a mild case of mental delirium.

This morning having slept in slightly, after breakfast we returned to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo  . We felt we had to see those darn monkeys one last time. We sat at a bench surrounded by rose bushes and plush foliage captivated by the monkeys’ antics and rambunctious behavior. They swung, climbed and scrambled about their cage knowing full well they were entertaining their audience. Families lingered towing strollers, mothers with children caboosed to their bodices clearly enjoying much needed together time. It was a nice snapshot of local life in HK.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception . A late 19th century Catholic Church rather austere and simple compared to the temples we have visited. I silently said gracious thanks to my God and a prayer for the sad recent international events that have transpired during our time here. Grateful for my safety and wellbeing, I sat in humble gratitude.

Bringing this trip to its final conclusion, we dined right down the street at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar . A popular place even for a Sunday night, it was hopping. It has an open kitchen concept and the menu specializes in British fare. The pumpkin soup was pure perfection. Our main courses were hearty, with ample portions. The service was stellar. The waitress was very friendly and curious about our time in HK. The hubs wanted so badly to say in his best Gordon Ramsay voice “this food is cr@p!” However, it really was flawless. The only downside is we were too full for the gorgeous looking desserts. Next to us was the most precious looking child celebrating her 3 year birthday. An Asian family completely enthralled with their adorable little girl. The closeness of the family was a perfect example of my many observations of the people of HK. We trudged on back the city staircase for the last time- sighing a deep breath that we had fully and completely absorbed the people, culture and heart of HK.

Tomorrow we leave for home. I always like to do a Top 10 and recapture the highlights of the trip.

    1. 10.Museum of Hong Kong History

9.Day trip to Macau (amazing buffet at MGM-Rossios)

8.Monkeys at the Botanical Zoo

7.Lantau Trips with the Big Buddha x 2

6.The Chieftains Concert at City Hall Music Hall

5.Stanley Market

4.The Victoria Peak

3.The varied and delicious restaurants of HK

(American, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, German (yep) Lebanese, French and British)
2.Ovolo Hotel Central (and the amazing shower and free laundry)

1.Lan Kwai Fong (major party area & night life)

Additionally, I want to add that I really appreciated the kind spirit of the HK people. They were so courteous and kind as well as helpful and accommodating. Everywhere we went families huddled together, doting mothers, interactive fathers, and possibly the cutest children I have ever seen. The spirit of HK will live on in my memories reminding me to cherish the people closest in my life, enjoy a little nightlife, eat well and be active. It is the true meaning of Feng Shui.

Tune in for more tales in March 2016 when A girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase takes off for Istanbul, Turkey.


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The Seeman’s Wedding Extravaganza

Wedding Blog

Waiting for my niece to get married entailed a countdown, much buildup, and the false hopes and crushed dreams of a potential flower girl possibility. I was a close contender but alas, plus size gals born 4 decades ago do not fit the bill for a summer wedding these days. Once the despair and rejection dissipated, the excitement of the upcoming nuptials settled in.

The date was set. June 7, 2015. A plan was formulated and Auntie B and Uncle F would be representing the Southwest corridor of Florida. A couple of bucket lists items were added on the itinerary and on June 6th the traveling duo known in some parts as “Edells gone wild” arrived with eager hearts and gusto to good ole’ Danbury Connecticut.

First bill of business, dinner at Chucks – the guest list-The Hills-Peter and Carol and the soon to be bride and groom. Trying to engage in the celebratory moment, yours truly had a margarita. This was bad choice, as perspiration began to erupt from every crevice, leaving a dewy glistening sheen and a visible “sweat-stache”. In addition, a certain napkin dropping scenario broke out. Waving and dropping my white napkin, reenacting a war-time surrender scene, or as my darling niece would say- I was practicing magic tricks.

The salad bar was ample and without even a chick pea lost in the cleavage-I would say this was a true success. Good conversation and some bootleg wedding shots (hidden by the groom) were shared. The hubs began telling tales of a “Danbury fair”, and got it in his head, he wanted to go there (for pie). Ironically and coincidentally, the Danbury fair was in town.

An impromptu plan emerged and off we all went, the bride and groom and those wild and crazy Edell’s, across the street to the Danbury Fair Mall This fair was pretty classy as far as fairs go. Situated smack in the mall parking lot, complete with toothless carnies, horny teenagers and parents eager to blow away their hard earned cash on crap.

The air was crisp and cool and we wondered the grounds. The screams reverberated of terrified youth dangling inverted in frightening contractions put together by pimply juniors in high school. Unctuous smells of greasy elephant ears and buttery popcorn permeated the air. We looped around the madness, feeling most comfortable in the kiddie section. The hubs equally disappointed by the lack of “pie” and missing the nightly puppet show-but, consoled ourselves with chocolate dipped ice-cream cones. Although, the fair was not as the hubs had envisioned-the night was very special. First, because the bride and groom had carved out exclusive time with just us, and second because they are one damn fun couple.

Less than 12 hours to the wedding clock countdown, we parted ways at our hotel-where all wedding guests (minus the bride) were staying. The hotel had all the comforts of home, excluding the dollhouse size bed that barely fit us.

The morning of the wedding-excitement was in the air. An abundance of breakfast treats awaited us in the lobby. A micro reunion was held between the bride’s brother Kevin from California, fresh from a 2 am arrival, the groom (cool as a cucumber) and parents of the bride. We filled our guts in preparation of the day’s events over lively conversation as the sun streamed in the breakfast area. Again, a spontaneous plan was devised to take some of that bottled up energy and walk through the park.
A dear friend of mine, I had not seen in 10 years, incidentally-lives in this park. A quick facebook correspondence and a plan to meet in the “hayfield” developed. The hubs, the groom and I walked past Sunday yuppie yoga-ers on their trendy mats in pretzel positions on our way to our destination. The park was beautiful, with colorful flowers, chirping birds and a confused and disinterested deer.

We arrived at a glassy lake that shimmered in the sunlight. As I approached this picturesque scene, my friend appeared. Pleasantries were exchanged as she introduced me to her Minnie me (her baby). We caught each other up quickly on the last decade. The groom, eager to expel some of his nervous energy ambled the grounds squeezing in a quick run.

Running short on time and the groom contemplating the importance of fresh boxers for his big day – as he had forgotten them- decided it best to venture home for this item. Back in the car, boxers in hand and a much needed Starbuck’s run, mission complete. The crew split up at this point as the groom reunited with his bros’ pounding on his chest, drinking beers and gearing up for the pending festivities.

The venue of the ceremony and reception was at the lovely . A charming dwelling, with a quaint gazebo was the destination of the ceremony. The sun beamed down on the enthusiastic guests, many reacquainting after decades. Eventually, the bride emerged on the backseat of a golf cart. Her white gown and train trailing behind, her blond flowing locks pulled loosely with an ornate hair clip and the Maid of honor in tow, in a scarlet red mirage.

The vows were presented by an animated JOP lending juicy tips, such as -Never go to bed mad, and always let her get her way… As the sun set, the kiss was smooched and the party began. In a toasty tent, cocktail hour awaited us. Salty calamari, a plethora of cheeses, salads and salmon greeted us. Polite waiters offered guests shrimp cocktail, impressive sliders and other tasty morsels. Tucked in a corner, the bartender boozed up the patrons, loosening up the crowd.

As the guests started to proceed to the main dining room, the mother of the bride, tripped over a taunting curb, wine glass in hand. Just inches from me, I witnessed the whole event in slow motion. Arms flew in the air to brace the impact, eye glasses crushed in pieces and the wine goblet crystalized into sharp shards. Her chin bobbed up and down on the firm concrete, instantly creating a bruise worthy of Rocky Balboa.

The silence was deafening, a pit crew spontaneously materialized, a broom, a bucket, ice, and mysteriously an enormous throne like chair appeared as the wedding planner shouted out commands –impressively all within seconds. Matthew, one of the brides cousin, front and center began a neurological exam, in his best New York accent-“Yous guys, back up, I’m an EMT.” The mother of the bride, more embarrassed than hurt shooed all concerned parties away, including the Pit Master, scurrying away with the bucket of ice to an undisclosed place. Moments later, she appeared band aid on chin, a skip in her step, inexplicably brand new glasses and I believe a fresh cocktail. It was a modern day Christmas Miracle.

In the main dining room, wedding celebrations began. The bride and groom were announced, the maid of honor letting loose and the parents of the bride, fresh from the fall, strutting to the beat. The feeding frenzy continued with a tasty and hearty salad and followed by choices of prime rib or chicken, and even a vegetarian option for me- that was exceptionally tasty. Looping pink hearts adorned the tables, as well adorable embroidered burlap sacks filled with chocolate coffee beans (which were quite yummy) as a parting gift.

The champagne toasts began with the maid of honor, becoming tearful and reaching into the bosom of the bride for conveniently placed tissues. The crowd erupted in giggles as the groom and the best man attempted the same shenanigans. The best man, who potentially planned his speech during the cocktail hour, had a heartfelt and eloquent speech complete with a New York drawl “I love yous”.

There was a picture booth, which was quite popular, complete with accessories and novelties. The rambunctious bride enthusiastically photo bombing her guests’.The music began to get louder and the guests started losing their minds. Some sort of Indian tribal dance began; compete with chanting and seizure like activity.

A conga line snaked around the dance floor, grabbing any poor sap in its path, no one was exempt. The rowdy crowd continued the revelries, splitting up in clusters. Ladies half hazardly threw their expensive shoes, men loosening their ties as the merriments continued well into the night.

Tired, full, satiated, buzzed and slightly disabled from a knee/step injury earlier in the evening, as well a 430 am wakeup call approaching-we called it a night. I would say The Seeman Wedding Extravaganza was a huge success. Congrats, Seeman’s- we love you both. Thank you for letting us share in your big day. I wish you all the happiness in the world. Even though, the flower girl plan fell apart, in my heart- I will always be your little flower girl- sprinkling your world with petals of love and the seeds of a happy life.

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