Monday, September 24, 2012

Northern Europe Cruise

Another late post, and this one is going to be a doozy! So buckle in. I just happen to have LOTS and LOTS and LOTS to say and show about the Northern European cruise Brian and I went on with his parents end of August.

First, some words of reassurance: I will not say and show everything...just the highlights of the highlights (as you can imagine, it was all pretty spectacular). Also, I'll kill the suspense up front because I know you're all dying to know: 8 days afloat with an in-law/family mix and no one was thrown overboard! (Pre-trip, I fully expected to be bobbing in the middle of the Baltic Sea right now after driving everyone crazy, but I guess they took pity.)  In fact, I think everyone had a great time. Last, before we dive in, a big THANK YOU to Brian's parents, who gave us this amazing trip as a Christmas present a couple of years ago (I think Santa gets a few years off now, don't you?). we go. The highlights.


  • Scrambling for 40 euro cents to use the bathroom in the train station
  • Taking a Canal Tour through the gorgeously preserved, historic town--ducking to go under super low bridges, stopping under bridges when the sky completely opened up, getting soaked by umbrella run off, still managing to be in awe. (Little did we know, this would start a trend. Pretty good weather on our trip…except for whenever we got on a boat tour…)
  • Climbing the bell tower—surviving the billions of windy, narrow stairs, enjoying the quaint song that began chiming as soon as we were in the bell room at the top, remembering our honeymoon in Florence as we admired the view.

  • Melting chocolates in our mouths (literally), after discovering Dumon Chocolate Shop--delicious Belgian chocolate goodness in our tummies.
  • Ducking in a lace/souvenir shop when it started pouring rain and picking out our first ornament of the trip.
  • Seeing the only Michelangelo that ever left Italy during his lifetime in the Church of Our Lady.
  • Sitting by the canal at the end of the day to rest our feet, and seeing quite the show from some teenagers on a blanket who thought they were hidden from view.
  • Olympic speed walking through Blakensburg to catch our cruise shuttle at the last possible second.



  • Being totally annoyed that the Cruise Director would make an intercom announcement early in the morning on our day at sea, and then realizing once fully awake that he was saying “It’s now noon. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon at sea!” 
  • Sweeping the onboard basketball tournament—Brian first , Amber and Larry (Brian’s dad) second.
  • Beginning to realize that our Italian head waiter, Danielle, was going to spoil me completely rotten throughout our journey. Each night desserts multiplied. By the end of the trip he was bringing me 3 plates of gluten free treats with dinner , and was finding ways to mysteriously appear at the breakfast buffet with gluten free muffins.  Between him, and the piles of bacon the breakfast attendant gave me each morning…


  • Finding what we thought was the famous little Mermaid statute as soon as we got off the boat-- I was scandalized.  Later, we found the real statue…which was much less scandalous. Brian immediately dubbed the first mermaid we’d encountered Chesty Magee. (I'm not sure we'll be meeting Miss Magee again, thank you very much.)
  • Taking a pretty walk around the lake/pond/moat of Frederiksborg Castle (in the rain, of course) and doing the grand tour. The “Versailles of Northern Europe” didn’t disappoint.
  • Frantically searching souvenir shops and corner stores for a Sprite to cure Amber’s headache, and finally found a Burger King (bless the USA).
  • Seeing the sights-- including the original Christus statute, the Hans Christian Anderson statute (Amber almost killed herself trying to jump on his lap), and tons of “Amber Specialists” shops (I felt like quite the hot commodity).
  • Loving the bike infested walk to Rosenborg Castle (cars are taxed heavily in Denmark, so it really is streets filled with bikes acting like cars), and then enjoying the tour (except the part where I got harassed by workers for taking photos I didn’t know I couldn’t take. Ooops.)

  • Feeling the sea breeze and oogling over the gorgeous colored row houses in Nyhaven (my favorite part of Copenhagen), and then taking another canal tour…meaning more rain.

  • Sneaking away on a date night with my boy to Tivoli Gardens (a famous theme park in Copenhagen)—we walked awhile to catch the train, and made it to the park to find it had just closed.  Luckily, Brian met a sympathetic  female employee who admitted us so we could at least see the lights. Snuggling and strolling was lovely. And on the way home, we miraculously found a bus we didn’t know existed that dropped us right at our cruise ship.

  • Strolling the streets of Sweden before they were awake—the 13th century church was fun, but my favorite was pondering my heritage in the quiet of the streets (my grandparents on my dad's side are full and 3/4 Swede...yep...I see the lights going on above all your heads now about my crazy maiden name).
  • Taking the ferry back to Denmark and strolling through a lovely little fishing village, Helsignor, where the famous Hamlet castle, Elsinore, was waiting to be toured and explored—our tour guide was awesome, and we even got to explore under the castle in the casements. Picnicking on the gorgeous grounds wasn’t so bad either.

  • Running up the stairs of the keep back in Sweden at the very end of our day.

  • Going on a train ride into the gorgeous, piney Norway mountains for hiking and an amazing view of the fjords below--enjoyed the scenery on the ride up (including houses with grass on their roofs), but as soon as we got off the train, fog and rain moved in. No view. Cold. No view! We couldn’t find our hiking trail, and decided to take shelter on the porch of an abandoned lodge restaurant, before getting back on our train.

  • Finding that the weather was fine down below, we decided to jinx ourselves and hop a boat to a little island with a Folk Museum. It was our first boat ride with no rain (and our best self-taken smooching photo of the trip)!

  • Strolling the amazing folk museum, seeing houses and churches imported from all over Norway representing hundreds and hundreds of years of history. My highlight of highlights was makiong friends with an adorable dog, who scampered up as soon as I called. Precious.
  • Sailing out of Norway through the beautfiul Norwegian Fjords. Stunning.


LONDON, ENGLAND (aka: What-didn't-we-do-in-24-hours)

  • Making the 7:30 train out of Southhampton just in time, meaning we were into London by 9 to check into our amazing (seriously…amazing) hotel.
  • Freaking out at the history in Westminster Abbey. The tour blew us away.
  • Photo opping at Big Ben and the famous phone booths, while catching a random parade of horse soldiers. Sooooooooo London.
  • Touring the inside of Buckingham Palace , which is only allowed for 2 months of every year. AMAZING. We also took the opportunity to kiss and be kissed under the famous balcony.

  • Beefeater touring it up at the Tower of London – we also saw the crown jewels, saw the exact spot where Anne Boelyn's head went bye bye, and thought of Phillipa Gregory a lot.
  • Riding the London  Eye for some really cool views.
  • Dining at an amazing gluten free dinner—there wasn’t  a lot of conversation, as everyone was in a dreamlike trance by this point. But Bri and I weren’t done…we had to see London lit up, and it was well worth the extra walking.

  • After showering and somewhat unpacking, finding that mine and Brian’s air conditioner didn’t work. So, we got to repack and switch rooms at midnight (after a funny incident with the hotel employee that came to check the air conditioner barging into the bathroom where Amber was hiding in her bathrobe).
WHAT a TRIP!  I can't lie...with the red eye, and early mornings, and crazy running around, and returning to  loads and loads of work, I think we're both still recovering a month later! But if it wasn't worth it, I don't know what is!  Thanks again to the Johnsons and to any of you who actually made it through this travel log. You must love us or something! :)
More photos can be found on facebook, by following these links!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Meggie Moo comes to play

This is very late in coming, and I promise it has nothing to do with my level of excitement over the event I'm posting about. I had an absolute BLAST when my sister Meg, and brother-in-law Daniel came to visit mid-August. I've just learned something about myself: when I am working full-time, I am totally incapable of keeping up on a few things--namely this blog, cleaning, cooking and emailing. I have to admit, I'm a little torn up about the blogging and emailing. The cleaning and cooking are another matter. :)

ANYWAY... back to Meg's visit.

Who doesn't love having their youngest sis all to themselves for a couple of days of girl-talk, staying up til 2 am (what were we thinking?), going to the zoo to stalk the cute animals, walking Theodore Roosevelt Island, exercising at Ft. Ward (Meg taught me how to spaz jog) and shopping? It was a blast. When Daniel joined us mid-week, we added to the fun with Mt. Vernon, the monuments, a picnic by the tidal basin (holy cow...ANTS in my pants), a tour of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonians, Ford's Theater, the Archives and Old Town. Throw in a lively game of Battle of the Sexes, the Newlywed Game and lots of rounds of cards (where Megan always seemed to win, much to everyone else's chagrin)... and it was a good time in the old town.

So glad you came to town Meggie Moo and Daniella. Tell his company he needs more training at the Westin in Reston, and get back here soon!

(Since this blog is still completely out of storage, all the photos can be found on facebook).