Friday, July 31, 2015


After 3 or 4 days to catch my breath from the Scandinavian countries, I was off to spend a week with my sister in London. We have been very close since we were little girls and have continued to try to spend some alone time together. We used to take a week off together and spend it at a spa, but this year we decided to go to London and see some plays. She flew in from Detroit and I flew in from Rome. (There is a very cheap flight on Ryan Air from Perugia, but the timing of it didn't work for us.)

We are like calaminity Janes when we travel alone. So the first thing that went wrong is that I was waiting in the wrong terminal. I learned how to take the Heathrow Express, and arrived to greet her before too long. My sister is not a technology obsessed person, so all of the information I tried to send her about our trip, like what we were doing, where we were staying, did not make it to her. When she came through London customs, they asked her "Where are you staying?" her reply "I don't know." "What are you going to do?" "I don't know. My siser arranged everything." The agent was exasperated with her. "You don't know where you are going or where you are going to stay?"  "No." Then my sister brilliantly asked the agent, "Do you have an older sister?" The woman laugher, said she did and waved her through. Those of you who know Sarah, will particularly appreciate this story.

So we were off to our apartment that we rented through London Connections.  I have used this organization twice, and I highly recommend them. Very efficient, with great properties for vacation rentals. Our apartment was in the West End across from the Palace Theater. A perfect location for us. We saw 4 plays, 2 exhibits and 2 movies. Here is my take on them.

First up was Soundscapes which is shown at the National Gallery and runs from July through September 6, 2015. We bought our tickets online, which I would recommend.

Six musicians were chosen to participate in this show. Each musician was given free range of the collection at the National Gallery, which was huge. Once the musician selected their painting, they then composed music that they felt represented their response to the painting. The motto for the show is "Hear the painting, see the music." Each painting has its own room and there are multiple speakers in the toom, where the painting is displayed, that plays the newly composed music. Some of it was perplexing, some of it was moving all of it was interesting. We particularly enjoyed the music for the painting "Air on a  Broken String" by Hans Holbein the Younger. The musician was Susan Philipsz from Glasgow...
We highly recommend this exhibit if you are in London during this time.

The next exhibit we saw was "Audrey Hepburn:Portraits of an Icon" This exhibit is at the National Portrait Gallery and runs from July to October 18th.

We both love Audrey Hepburn so we loved the show. If you're not a fan, you might not be as interested in this. It was fascinating to see the fashion and the times in one setting.

On to the plays. Our favorite was Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theater.  It has been around for a long time, so probably many of you have seen it. It was funny, irreverent, with great music, singing and dancing. I guess the Mormons aren't too crazy about it.  4 stars, highly recommended.

Beautiful- The Carole King Musical...playing at the Aldwych Theater...starring Katie Brayben...also excellent...although we had ordered tickets on line, paid full price and these were the worst tickets we had. All of the other tickets we got in Leister Square for half price. I would never again get theater tickets in London ahead of time, unless there was a really compelling reason. We thought Katie did an excellent job as Carole Kind and we enjoyed the performance.

The Commitments at the Palace Theater...very fun evening. Great story. Final performance November 1st.

Beattles Let it Be at the Garrick theater.  For us this was our least favorite play and we love the Beattles. Very low tech presentation, singing was okay not great. I would skip it.

We say the movie Amy, about Amy Winehouse, which we loved, very sad, but the music was fantastic. The we saw Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen, which was so slow we could hardly stay awake.

The one restaurant we would recommend...
Galvin at of the Park Hilton.
Fantastic views...wonderful service and inventive and delicious food.  Prices were excellent for the setting and type of food.

My sister had the cod

and I had the chicken.

Yes, that it popcorn mixed in with the regular corn. Unexpected as well as delicious.

On one of our trips walking around being lost, we came across the Apple store in Covent Gardens. The staircase is pure Steve Jobs..

London was a perfect "girls' week" place to visit. We felt safe the whole time, were never in need of a car and walked everywhere. The only drawback was that the city was very, very crowded with tourists. With the heat wave sweltering most of Europe, other people than us, had the idea that London would be a great place to be. Other than the crowds, we loved this city.

This concludes the London trip report. Safe travels wherever you may be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen

While the termperature was rising in Italy, the Stoic One, me and our friends Marjorie and Doug, headed north to the Scandinavian countries. We had never been up there before, so it was fun to explore. They are all cities surrounded by water which, to me, adds to their attractiveness.

Helsinski has a population of over a half a million, but it didn't seem that large to us. It is referred to as the Daughter of the Baltic and is located on a peninsula in the Baltic Sea and includes 315 islands. They share a 1200 kilometer border with Russia, and Mr. Putin makes them very nervous.
 It is ranked as one of the 5 best cities for technology, and has a reputation for top notch design.

I loved the bright, primary colors of these side walk cafe tables.

The weather was warm and the people were happy to be out and about.  We were in the land of the midnight sun, that was not as weird as you might expect. It was lovely to be out at 10:00pm in the twilight. All hotel rooms come with black out drapes, so sleeping was not an issue. It is a very walkable city, which we love.

After three days, we took a train from Helsinki to Stockholm. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. With a population of 915,000 people, it is a bit larger than Helsinki.  It is a city that is easy to explore and easy to love. It is spread across 14 islands and is connected by 57 bridges.

The architecture in Stockholm is very stolid. If Rome is a feminine city, Stockholm is a beautiful masculine city.

We took an overnight ferry from Stockholm to Copenhagen. The cabins were quite spacious.

Copenhagen was very crowded with cruise ships. It was difficult to walk down the streets without bumping into people. I wish we had more time there. Perhaps we will return one day.

Here is the Little Mermaid that everyone loves. She is quite small.
She was donated to the city by Carl Jacobsen, a brewer. The inspiration for the statue was from Hans Christian Adersen's fairy tale. Unbelieveable the amount of tourists who have come to see her.

If Italy is a country of "Extroverted Feelers", like me, the Scandinavian countries are Introverted Thinkers, like the Stoic One. I must say these countries are very efficient, and I am sure that all of their trains run on time!