Another Side of Sweden – Gotland Island (Visby)

From the city streets and canals of Stockholm to quiet island life.  Established around 900AD, Visby, Sweden is located on Gotland Island, a few hours boat ride south of Stockholm.  That was our last stop of the cruise before it was time to head back to England.

Visby is known as a vacation destination for locals.  However, it is also known to have the best preserved medieval city in Scandinavia.  I had thought that when we arrived to Visby that it would be like the Vineyard; way overpopulated, tons of cars and noise and filled with tourist shops.  That’s not to say that it didn’t have a few shops but it was not nearly as touristy as I expected.  Ok, it had tourists. Just not an overflow of them.

We did ice cream for breakfast since it was right near us Continue reading

More Cruising… Helsinki, Finland

It’s now August 6.  I feel like I have been writing blog posts forever about this cruise.  It was an amazing trip but I’m getting tired about blogging it – I think because it was so long ago and with all my computer issues, I delayed getting them done.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but I really need to do these travel ones right after the visit or else I lose the drive to get it done.  So just plugging away now.

Helsinki.  It was ok.  I’d say out of all the places we went, this was probably not our favorite.  Of course, it was the stop immediately after a very impressive time in St. Petersburg so there a little let down there I think since it wasn’t as amazing as Russia.  Plus we were pretty exhausted after 2 – nine hour days of touring there.  Russia was the only stop where we did a formal tour – in all the other cities we did our own thing since Continue reading

Behind the Iron Curtain – Two Days in St. Petersburg, Russia

I never thought I would see the day where we touched upon Russian soil. I can’t say that it was ever in the forefront of my mind or desire as a vacation must see. But when we decided to take this cruise, it was one of the primary reasons we chose this itinerary. It’s the forbidden, the unknown and well, we were just incredibly curious!!

I had ideas in my head before we got there as to what to expect.  I expected a lot of gray.  I expected things to be a bit dilapidated.  I expected people to seem a bit “haunted” and nervous like they were being watched all the time.  I expected it to feel dreary and a bit forbidden.  I expected to have a feeling of foreboding and anxiety that something might happen while we were there, beyond our control.

I definitely have read too many spy novels and watched a few too many movies because I would say for the most part my preconceived ideas of what to expect where not Continue reading

Working Our Way North to Tallinn, Estonia

July 5, 2014 – The weather has been continuing to improve the last few days – it gives me hope for our future in Amsterdam that it won’t all be clouds and rain. Though the temps have yet to hit 70 in July. However to be fair, we are a bit further north now; Tallinn, Estonia to be exact. We are pretty far north – the sun didn’t even set until almost 11 last night!!!

So today was our day to spend exploring in Tallinn. Knowing it was a small city (only about 400,000 people) and that our focus would be on the old town, we knew that the one day would be enough. It would have been great to have a few more hours to spend exploring but overall a day was good.

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First Stop – Copenhagen, Denmark

(July 3, 2014) We’ve been to Copenhagen before so this was actually a great first stop for us. Less pressure getting off the boat at a particular time plus getting an idea of the procedure for disembarking. As expected, it was a fairly streamlined process. Royal Caribbean has been doing this for quite some time, they’ve got these procedures down to a science.

For a little background, Copenhagen was founded in the 10th century and was originally a Viking village.  It only became the capital of Denmark in the 15th century.  It’s also one of the richest cities in the world.  Given it’s location and the fact that in the winter there are only 1-2 hours of sun per day (because of precipitation, not because it’s dark), obviously these people are spending their days in the office making money.  I can’t say I blame them. From March til May, they get 4-6 hours of sun per day – still not enough for me.  What I also found out is that Denmark is a very green country and Copenhagen is one of the most environmentally friendly city in the world.  The aim is to be carbon neutral by 2025, not too far off into the future.  As we continued on past Copenhagen we saw hundreds upon hundreds of wind farms in the sea which are owned by Denmark.

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Cruisin’ the Baltic Sea

(July 1, 2014)  Last year when we thought we were moving back home, Josh and I decided that our last trip in Europe would be a cruise in the Baltic Sea.  A few of our friends had done the cruise and raved about it and our thoughts were that we hadn’t had much opportunity to explore Northern Europe and that we could at least touch upon some areas we hadn’t seen and then decide if they were places we would want to make the journey back to Europe to see in more detail.  In the end, instead of a “goodbye Europe” trip, it ended up being, “Intro to Northern Europe” now that we are moving there.

We aren’t cruisers by nature.  There is nothing wrong with it, it’s just not usually our cup of tea.  Plus we often travel for just long weekends rather than for a week or more at a time so most cruises don’t usually fit into our schedule.  The only other cruise that I had been on was the Disney one 6 years ago with Josh and Aidan (Liam was at home) and Josh had been on several in his earlier 20s but cruising in your 20s is very different than cruising with your family in your late 30s.

Regardless, we are very excited about the cruise and all the stops we will be making, especially St. Petersburg, Russia.  There aren’t many opportunities one has to visit Russia in their lifetime and so we are especially looking forward to that port.

We had decided a while back that since the boat wasn’t leaving the port til around 5PM Continue reading