Adventures in London

In my last post, Brenna and I were finishing up our stay in Ireland. During our walks around the village of Clifden, I noticed a shop that advertised next-day business cards. I went inside and inquired, and was told that I could send an email with graphics and they would have the cards ready the next day. Since I had been to many conferences and was tired of writing my info on a scrap of paper when everyone else was handing out business cards, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

I sent a head shot and found a Rotary symbol on-line, along with my phone number, email address and just the village and state of Mexico where I live. I also had a heading with the name of my Rotary club – the Rotary e Club of the Southwest USA. When I went to pick up the cards, the person in charge of printing had left out the “e,” thinking it was a typo. And – he had already printed up 200 cards. Oops! I explained that the small “e” was very important, so he said I could pick up the re-printed cards in the morning.

Fortunately, our car service wasn’t due to pick us up until 1pm the next day, so I was able to return to the shop the following morning and left with my business cards. Whew!!!

There was one other hiccup that had been bothering me since before we left the U.S. – Our flight from Ireland was landing at London/Stanstead Airport on Friday the 13th – the same day and same airport President Trump would be there. I had visions of delays and traffic jams dancing in my brain, with the thought that no matter what happened, at least it was a direct flight so I didn’t have to worry about making a connecting flight.

As it turned out, our departure from Ireland was only delayed one hour, and our host in London already knew we were arriving in the evening, so there was no problem.  From the Stanstead Airport we took a bus, and then a taxi to our Air BnB, which turned out to be an apartment on the 10th floor of the building. We needed to ring the apartment, as there were two other guests staying there. We finally arrived at 11pm and once we were in, we were given a key to the building, to the front door of the apartment and to our bedroom.  We never did see the owner of the apartment, but had many pleasant conversations with the other guests.

Our London Dr. Who walking tour wasn’t until that Sunday, so we spent Saturday exploring London via walking and taking the London Underground. We found our way to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which was very interesting. Holmes and Watson, in the novels, lived at 221B Baker Street.  This museum was on Baker Street, but technically had another number, but, I guess, for the tourists and fans of Sherlock Holmes, was designated as 221B.  The building had the furnishings of the time and mannequins depicting various characters from the novels.  The line was very long to get in, and tickets had to first be purchased from the souvenir shop next to the museum. I think we waited about 90 minutes to get in.

The following day, we took the Doctor Who London Walking Tour. Not being a Whovian myself, a lot of what the guide said didn’t mean much to me, but it was still enjoyable, and Brenna was able to meet many people her own age who were also fans, including a girl from North Carolina.

One of the places we stopped on the tour was the actual Stratford-on-Avon theater, where Shakespeare’s plays are still performed.  After the tour, we continued walking around, visiting the London Eye and seeing the Tower of London, which, unfortunately, had netting and scaffolding around it for maintenance and repairs.

Also, when crossing one of the bridges across the Thames, we saw people relieving tourists of their hard-earned cash with shell games, and also a young man practicing on the bagpipes. Apparently, there was also going to be a bagpipe contest at some point in the near future.

During our wanderings, we also visited Paddington Station. Yes, Paddington Station as in Paddington Bear.  In that station, they actually had a shop full of PB merchandise, including books and stuffed bears. I bought a bear in anticipation of our trip to Refuweegee (the organization that helps refugees) in Glasgow.


Brenna at the Paddington Bear shop in Paddington Station

     We did quite a bit of walking, and Europe was experiencing an unusually hot summer, so eventually we headed back to our apartment. One nice thing about staying in this Air BnB was that we had access to a kitchen and a washing machine, so we bought our own food and cooked it, saving the cost of restaurant meals, and also making it more convenient to be able to eat when we wanted and not be dependent on hours and availability of local restaurants.

The Air BnB was about a 40 minute walk to the nearest Underground station, but in exchange for not being close to public transportation, we had an incredible view of London in the distance. We also used the taxis quite a bit. We were told to use only the black taxis, as they were more regulated. We were supposed to be able to sign on and pay ahead with a credit care, much like Uber and Lyft, but that never worked, so I ended up paying cash for every ride.

As I mentioned, I am a member of Rotary International, and also a member of the International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors (which is actually healthcare workers, not just doctors), and I had been notified by my club that I qualified for my Paul Harris+1 pin. However, there is no club near where I live in Mexico.  My fellow IFRD member, Dr. John Philip lives with his wife Christine outside of London, so I notified him ahead of time that I would be in London and wanted to visit them and attend his local club meeting and receive my pin there,

We arranged to take the train to his home, attend a meeting and stay overnight.  We took the train and it was so nice to have a relaxing visit. Usually we only meet up every two or three years, when I have the time and money to attend the International Convention.

The train tickets were an interesting experience. The two tickets and the receipt all looked the same. You put your ticket into a machine, then it pops back up and the turnstile gate opens to let you through to the platform. I kept wondering why my ticket didn’t work, so I ended up squeezing through with Brenna – both of us at once. When I got on the train and took a good look at my ticket, it turns out that I was using my receipt, not the actual ticket. Since you also need to put the ticket in a machine when you reach your destination, I was wondering what would happen, but as it turned out, there was construction at our destination, so the machines weren’t in use. Well, I DID pay for the ticket, so it wasn’t like I was jumping the turnstile without paying.

It was nice to be able to visit my friends and have leisurely chats, as well as seeing their new home. We walked around the village, which was quite quaint, complete with a canal and a small bridge which could turn to let boats pass. That evening we attended the Newbury Rotary Club meeting.

It was a wonderful club meeting and we met so many nice Rotarians. At our table, sitting next to me was a man who introduced himself by saying, “Would you like to shake the hand of the man who shook hands with Prince Harry?”  The man’s name was Roy Wood and he is a member of, one of the charities that Prince Harry supports ( )  Mapaction is an organization that gathers  information during disasters, providing responders with critically important information necessary for them to do their jobs.

During the evening, I was presented with my pin by Irene Waters, president of the Newbury Rotary club.


Receiving my Paul Harris +1 pin from President Irene Waters

Newbury Rotary Club


     And then it was time to return to Dr. Philip’s home for a good night’s rest.

The following morning, we took the train back to London and packed up our suitcases.  Tired of going from place to place by air, I booked two tickets for private berths on the Caledonian Sleeper to take us from London to Glasgow.  For many parts of this trip, I looked for ways to save money, but for some things, since this was a trip of a lifetime for Brenna, I decided to spend the extra money. Having a hotel in Paris just two blocks from the Eiffel Tower with a balcony with a tower-view was one expenditure, and the sleeper train was another.  I felt it was well-worth the extra money in addition to not having to visit another airport and ride in  tiny planes again.

And so we said good by to London – next stop, Glasgow!


left to right – Dr. Philip, Brenna, Christine Philip, me

Kylemore Abbey


Our next stop on the Irish section of our European adventure was the current Kylemore Abbey, conceived by Mitchell Henry and his wife Margaret and built as Kylemore Castle. Construction was begun in 1867 and completed in 1871, putting 100 men from the surrounding area to much-needed work.  Mitchell not only wanted a grand home in which he and his family could live, but he also wanted to help out the community, which was suffering greatly from the Great Irish Famine.

And so, he built this wonderful castle, complete with 70 rooms and modern innovations such as hot running water.




It was elegantly furnished, as one would expect of homes of that era.

I am always amazed when I see such estates, and cannot imagine what it must have been like to live in such surroundings. Included on the grounds of the estate was an enormous walled garden with a home for the caretaker and many glass hothouses.




Along the path from the Abbey was a sign for The Ironing Stone (Giant’s Wishing Stone), and as we walked, we kept searching for it. Finally we reached the end of the property, turned around and headed back to the Abbey. And – we found it ! I realized that on our way out, there were some visitors standing near what I had thought were just wooden poles that had been put into the ground. Now that we were headed in the other direction and there were no other tourists around, we realized that what we had thought were only posts were actually the “fingers” of the “giant.”

IMG_1010IMG_1007IMG_1008 (1)

Tragically for the Henry family, Margaret died from a fever contracted while visiting Egypt. This happened only four years after the castle was completed. In her memory, Mitchell had a church built on the grounds in her memory.


and the mausoleum containing her body was nearby


In 1903, the castle was purchased by a Cincinnati oil baron for his daughter as a wedding gift for her marriage to the Duke of Manchester. She went about “modernizing” the castle, removing some of the wood and stained glass. I believe I was told on the tour that these parts of the castle were not discarded, and eventually the Duke lost the property through his gambling.


It was then purchased by the Benedictine nuns and converted into an abbey and an international boarding school



The nuns had fled from their abbey in Ypres, Belgium during World War I,  and in gratitude for their safe arrival in Ireland, erected a statue of Jesus on the hillside near the abbey.



You can read more about their history here:




And so I am at the end of my narrative about our visit to this beautiful historic site in which the nuns continue to live and care for the property.  With nothing more to say, I will leave you with a few more photographs of this tranquil place:


Céad Míle Fáilte – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to Ireland

Before I begin with Ireland, I will insert part of the fireworks display from the 4th of July in Denmark.  Since any followers have already read that post, it is probably best to insert it here, as well as inserting it back into the 4th of July post for any future followers, so here goes:

And now that I’ve added the video, I can continue on to Ireland. The best I could do without arriving in Ireland too late in the day was a 7am flight , so off we went in a taxi at 4am to the Cardiff Airport, flying in another small plane to Edinburgh where we had a 3 hour layover,  after which we finally landed at Knock Airport.

Two hours later by taxi, we arrived at our destination – the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The countryside was just as green as it appears in photographs – absolutely gorgeous. We also passed fields of grazing sheep, and I noted that patches of their wool had been dyed (in one farm they were bright pink and in another, pink and blue) to denote who their owners were.

The Abbeyglen was a beautiful building from another era, made of stone and lovely woodwork the likes of which you don’t see these days in modern buildings. The dining room was very elegant and our room made us feel like we were in someone’s home rather than a hotel, with a large bedroom and sitting room complete with a day bed and couch.

One thing I did notice here, as well as London, Wales and Scotland was that the showers did not have a glass shield all the way around the tub. A glass “door” only went half the length of the tub and it had to be angled in to keep the water from going all over the floor.


Entrance and front of the hotel

and a very curious edifice close to the hotel building

Across the street from the hotel was an inlet that turned out to be part of the Atlantic Ocean, so when the tide came it appeared to be a lake, and when the tide went out again, it was a large mud flat.


It reminded me of when I was in Cameroon with a British charity. We had stayed in a small hotel right on the beach before heading inland. Before going to bed the waves came right up to the small retaining wall at the edge of the lawn. In the morning I was astonished to see people out on the rocks for quite a distance in what had been the ocean the night before.  I had grown up on Long Island in New York State, but had been away from the sea for so long that I had forgotten about the tides! Another thing that was different was the orientation of North vs South; on Long Island, looking out at the Atlantic, north was to the left and south to the right, but on the other side of the ocean north was now to the right and south to the left.

Clifden was a beautiful small town and you could walk around the perimeter in no time at all. Many restaurants,  bars, beauty shops, jewelry stores and a BOOKSTORE!  I was in heaven, and browsed and finally bought 4 books – one of which, of course, was “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” With electronic books taking over, it is becoming more and more difficult to find paper books and book stores, at least in the United States.


We did walk over to the post office, which was quite tiny. I had been hoping to send the bottle of Akvavit that I had purchased in the duty-free shop in Denmark to my son in Denver, however it was a no-go – at 45% alcohol, it was too potent to go through the mail.  If it had been a much smaller percentage of alcohol, it would have been ok.

However, what we COULD send were gifts we had bought and Brenna’s prom dress and fancy shoes back to her mother in New York. Problem was, the post office didn’t sell boxes, so we had to go next door to the stationery store to purchase a shipping box, then return to the post office and send it off.

Since I had already opened the sealed duty-free bag in which the alcohol was packaged, I needed lots of bubble wrap so that I could put the bottle in my checked suitcase for our next flight.  Unfortunately, the stationery store was out of bubble wrap. They kept telling me “it will be delivered later in the day” and “it will be delivered tomorrow” but that never happened.  We did go into a supermarket across the street and I noticed an employee putting bottles of wine on the shelf, so I asked if they happened to have bubble wrap from their deliveries of wine. Sure enough they did – she was very nice and went under the counter to give me as much as I wanted.

In the morning, we also went looking for a good place for Brenna to get a haircut, and inquired from some of the local people where to go. We finally found a highly-recommended shop and Brenna took her seat for a haircut, and also decided to get highlights. With all her hair, the cut took quite a while, and by then it was time for lunch. The beautician said that we should just go get something to eat and would let us pay for the cut just yet, saying she knew we would be back.

After lunch, we returned and a few hours later, Brenna had her cut and highlights. She had been talking with the beautician during the cut and mentioned that this trip was her 16th birthday gift, so when Brenna tried her best to give her a tip, she absolutely refused and wished her a happy birthday. Everyone we met here in Clifden was so incredibly nice, it was like we were home and they were family….


Brenna with her new  ‘do

and, of course, eating more salmon

     We did more wandering around and found a shop with, among other things, wool clothing. Poor Brenna still hadn’t found a hat that she fancied, but I found one:

IMG_0975 (1)

and so we went back to the hotel.

And now for a little backstory about the Abbeyglen.  I knew when planning this trip that I wanted to go to Ireland, but not sure exactly where to go. My step-daughter, Brenna’s mother, suggested that we go here. Brenna’s great-grandparents had gone and her parents had gone there also, so we would be carrying on a family tradition.

Unbeknownst to Brenna, her mother had called ahead to let the staff know we would be coming and it was for her 16th birthday, and so they planned a surprise for her. Well, it was supposed to be a surprise, but before the waiter brought her cake, he talked with me about MY birthday, and I had to say “No, it’s my granddaughter’s birthday.” Oops!

But it was to be brought out imminently anyway, so no harm done:


And so, that will end my post for today. The next article will be all about Kylemore Abbey and further adventures around Clifden. Until next time……………….

Cardiff, Wales – A Tale of Two Doctors

This whirlwind European trip was a 16th birthday present to my granddaughter, Brenna.  For years, she had been promised a trip when she turned 16. At first, she wanted to go to Australia, and I had already promised that she could pick the country to which she wanted to go. When she kept insisting on Australia, I told her mother that since half the cost of the trip would probably be the tickets, it would not be as many days as it could have been.

Then one day, I received a call from my step-daughter, Brenna’s mother. She said that Brenna was a big Doctor Who fan, and she had discovered that there were Doctor Who tours in the U.K., so Brenna then decided that she would rather go to the U.K.  And so, we were bound for Europe instead of across the Pacific to Australia.

It turned out that there were Doctor Who tours in two different cities – a bus tour and a walking tour in Cardiff and a walking tour in London, so I signed us up for all three. So off we went from Denmark to Wales via Amsterdam – two flights in a small plane that wasn’t pressurized as well as the larger commercial planes.

At altitude and more severely upon descent I experienced excruciating pain from my left inner eyebrow to my temporal-mandibular joint and behind my ear. I couldn’t hear in my left ear, and in addition I had severe low back pain to the point where I could barely walk. We made it by taxi to our hotel, where I learned that the local urgent care center was closed for the night but would open in the morning. I decided that I could wait until morning to go there, then had a room-service dinner.

In the morning, we took a taxi to the “GP” which is what they call their urgent care center and there I met the first doctor of today’s blog title. I was told that since I am not enrolled in the NHS that I would have to pay for the visit.  The cost of the visit was          40 British Pounds Sterling – about $52 USD.

The doctor gave me a thorough examination and I was prescribed Amoxicillin for my ear problem (bloody inside, pain and still couldn’t hear) and Tylenol with Codeine15/500 for pain. Went to the chemist (pharmacy), they charged me a little over 10 Pounds (about $13 USD), and then dispensed the Amoxicillin and a box of 100 (ONE HUNDRED) Tylenol/Codeine pills!!!!!  With all the controversy in the United States about prescription pain medication abuse and addiction, I couldn’t believe it and said I would only need about 4 pills, but the one hundred was what was dispensed.  I did end up only using 4 pills, and gave the rest to a doctor to donate to a hospital or clinic.

While I rested and recovered in our room, Brenna walked around Cardiff, and visited a fair that we had not heard about before we arrived. I admired the view from our balcony, which was right on the harbor, looking out onto the water and at a family of swans who swam daily among the lily pads.


I also decided to take advantage of their lovely afternoon tea. I had a great seat by the window, was served my choice of tea and a nice assortment of cakes and sandwiches.


In the morning, I definitely wasn’t up to taking a walking tour, and so called the organizer, Brit Movie Tours, to see if they would allow Brenna to go by herself, since she would be with a group of people. Since she was not 18 years old, they said no, so we had to skip the walking tour, but we DID take the bus tour. There was some walking involved in the bus tour, but the tour guide said I could remain on the bus for those parts

We met at the Millenium Center, and she was quite easy to spot, as you can see from her photo (hint: it’s her dress that gave her away).



The Welsh written language seems to have a lot of “w’s” and “y’s” and not too many vowels.


The Millenium Center with its copper-colored roof


Our tour guide. 

     The bus would stop at designated spots and our guide would hold up photographs of scenes from Doctor Who, indicating that those scenes were shot where we were standing at that time.

At one point, we stopped at the bottom of a hill and all the other passengers disembarked to climb the hill, but I remained on the bus and rode up to the top. There I found the ruins of a cathedral.

IMG_0890 (1)IMG_0891IMG_0895 (1)

and a war memorial



We also stopped at a mill in which wheat was ground.


After the tour we wandered around the harbor and attended the fair, which included tents with many types of food and crafts. And the next day, we continued wandering about, exploring the areas around the harbor.


Brenna relaxed by going to the amusement park that had been set up, going on many of the rides while I relaxed in the shade. We then continued on our way, looking for a restaurant in which we could have dinner, and stumbled upon Ianto’s Shrine, from a spinoff of the Doctor Who program.


and then stumbled upon another Doctor Who landmark, the American Diner in which some of the scenes took place:


photograph of the actors in the diner


the booth in which the actors played their scene


Our final night, we returned to a restaurant on the waterfront where we had had dinner the night before. The food was excellent, and the staff was very friendly, so we decided to eat there again and were not disappointed.

Since we had a 7am flight the next morning, and had to leave the hotel around 4am to make the flight, we packed out suitcases and went to bed early. Ireland would be our next stop with nothing in particular planned – so we were going to have 4 days to chill out after long plane rides, 5- and 6-hour time zone changes and zipping from one country to the next.

So – next stop, Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland!

American Independence Day – in Denmark – July 3rd and 4th

So, to continue our Independence Day adventures – I woke up in our hotel (the Comwell Rebild Bakker, sorry I got the name wrong in the last post) at 4am to a bright but overcast sky. It seemed that the sky never actually turned black; there was always some light. Reminds me of the term “Land of the Midnight Sun.”

Today was the fancy-dress gala, where we would have an elegant dinner followed by fireworks at 11:30pm. At 6pm we boarded a bus which took us to our venue – a very modernistic building with an incredible view of a fjord.


Brenna was able to wear her prom dress, which made her very happy.


One of the women at our table was named Helle, and she struck up quite a lively conversation with Brenna, discussing Dr. Who, the Hobbits, Harry Potter, higher education and reading in general. They exchanged information and I am sure will continue to stay in touch in the future.

It was a very elegant affair and throughout our travels Brenna was exposed to different types of food, plus food that she has eaten in the States, but told me that in Europe it tasted different – much fresher than she is used to. She loved everything, especially the salmon, which she ate every chance she had. One thing they served us in Denmark was pickled herring. Since she loves fish, she dove right in. I didn’t know until later that she hated the herring, but I am proud to say the expression on her face never changed. I never would have know that she didn’t like it if she hadn’t told me.

As the time for the fireworks was approaching, we headed out to the balcony. While Europe was experiencing an unusual heatwave, it was chilly on the water and I was glad I had brought a heavy shawl.  We looked out over the dock which had interesting lights:


and were treated to a spectacular fireworks display:

a very small sample of the fireworks

and as you can see, even at 11:30 at night it was still quite bright out.  We then said our good-byes and headed back to the bus to get some sleep in our hotel before the next set of events which were actually held on the 4th.

The following day was the tent luncheon where we had hamburgers, hot dogs, soda and, of course, Akvavit was being served.  When I was growing up, hot dogs were served with mustard and sauerkraut. From my step-daughters I discovered that some people eat them with ketchup. In Denmark they were served with crispy cooked onions and what I believe to be cucumbers.


At the luncheon there was a ceremony which involved a ceremonial key to the town returned from the man who had been selected a day or two ago to be “mayor for the day.”  It was a very interesting ceremony with costumed officials and one man holding an instrument which I had never seen before.


After this, there was the celebration in the hills. Because of the heat wave, it was brutally hot outside, Brenna had cramps and on top of that, they were charging 150 Danish Krone (about $25 USD) per person to sit in the hills on the ground with no shade. If we had been feeling better, or if there had been some shade or it had been cooler we might have gone there, but we thought better of it.


stage in the hills where the performance was to take place

Before going down the path to the hills, vendors were selling their wares, so we each bought a tee shirt. There was also many antique cars being shown.

Before very long, we decided that it would be wise to retire to our room to rest before the after-party to be held in the same tent as the luncheon.  After we were adequately rested, I changed into my new tee shirt and we went to the tent for the after-party. There was a band, more hot dogs and hamburgers and, of course, plenty of Akvavit.


And so we continued our wonderful conversations with our new-found friends until it was time to say good=bye.  And, now that I think about it, I had been staying in touch with old friends via social media during this time. My friend Maggan from Sweden and Victor, who had studied in Aalborg began telling me of places that I should see while in Denmark, including a place north of Aalborg “where two seas meet.” I had to tell them that if I had known about these places ahead of time, I could have planned for it, but tickets were already bought for transportation, hotels were already booked, and so further sightseeing would have to wait for another time.

And so we gave Helle a hug and said our good=byes then went back to pack. And it was off to Cardiff, Wales on the 5th….


Happy 4th of July – from Rebild, Denmark!

Many years ago, during one of my travels, I had a conversation with a woman who happened to be from Denmark. She told me about an annual celebration in the town of Rebild. She said that this was the only real American 4th of July celebration outside of the United States. All these years since that conversation, I had been telling myself that one day I would spend the 4th of July in Rebild, and now I saw my chance to actually do it.

Knowing that my granddaughter’s family usually celebrates together, I asked Brenna if she would care to celebrate this holiday in Denmark, and she seemed happy to do that. And so I started to make plans, did an internet search and found the Rebild National Park Society, located in Illinois.  Upon seeing the schedule of events on the web site, I decided to obtain a membership for myself and my granddaughter so that we could attend all the events including a formal gala (Yaaaayyyy!!! Brenna gets to wear her prom dress more than once!).

I called Linda Steffensen at the Illinois office, and she told me that the Rebild Bakker Hotel is across the street from the hills in which the events are held, so I booked a room there, and all was well.

We flew to Aalborg via Amsterdam, having only 15 minutes in Amsterdam to go from Gate D90 where we arrived to Gate B30 where our connection was. It was a LONG distance, and Brenna is on the track team, so I had her run ahead to make sure they didn’t leave without me.

The Rebild Bakker Hotel turned out to be a sports hotel surrounded by fields and trees. There was hiking, bicycle rentals, swimming pool,  everything regarding this hotel had to do with sports and exercise. The stairs were even marked with how many calories you burn with each step!

“Take the stairs and live longer”

     During the day, I did our laundry, but needed the help of the receptionist to figure out how to use the machine. I had never seen so many settings before.

We then went to a luncheon, with mainly older Danish people. I discovered that they really like to sing and drink. We would be eating and talking, then someone would propose a toast, we’d take a sip and then we would sing, in both English and Danish, a process which was repeated at least half a dozen times during lunch.

They have a very strong drink called Akvavit. It was like tasting fire – much stronger than tequila.I could only manage to raise my glass and take a tiny sip. The songs were very old-fashioned to me – for instance “Yellow Rose of Texas” and “My Darling Clementine” which to me are also very depressing when you listen to the words, but I thoroughly enjoyed the song about Akvavit.


bottle of Akvavit


words to the song in English

Link to the melody. It says “Melodi: Oppe pa bjerget” (up on the mountain) and the link  above  is to that song, but the melody is also the same as the more familiar song

“I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me”

“Snaps” is their word for this drink, and perhaps it is the equivalent of the German schnapps. I don’t know for sure as I’ve never had schnapps. Anyway, that bottle you see is one that I bought at the Aalborg airport when leaving Denmark. When we got to Cardiff, they wouldn’t ship that strength of alcohol to the U.S., so I ended up bringing it to New York when we returned to Brenna’s house. U.S. won’t ship alcohol either, so, since it was for my son in Colorado, someone will have to visit him and bring it in their suitcase……

Anyway, back to Rebild. We sat next to some very nice Danes who were surprised that we have absolutely no Danish ancestry. They were surprised when I told them how we had come to know about the festival and decided to attend, and I promised to write all about it in my blog, so that maybe other non-Danish or non-Danish-Americans would learn about it and attend.  Apparently it is a very famous festival to celebrate the opportunity Danish immigrants found in the United States and many presidents have attended in the past.

During the lunch the “Top Karen” Prize (“Top Karens Pris” in Danish) was awarded. This prize was begun in 2002 to honor the person who has contributed significantly within the Danish-American community in the U.S. in general and in behalf of the Rebild Society in particular.

Top Karen (Karen Marie Andersen) and her husband Top Jens opened the first coffee house in Rebild, originally only selling boiled water to tourists who brought their own coffee beans, and with time gradually expanded her business. Her house on the grounds is called “TopHuset” and as you can surmise from the name of the prize, Top Karen became  quite beloved in her community.

Besides the hills, an office and the yellow TopHuset (Top Karen’s and Top Jens’ house) there is a sculpture garden on the grounds:

bust of Victor Borge

bust of USA president William Howard Taft


bust of Jens Toldstrup, a leading figure in the Danish Resistance in WW II


The Aviator Stone

in gratitude to the Allied airmen whose missions helped sustain the Danish Resistance Movement during WW II


statue commemorating Danish immigrants to the U.S. 

     I WAS planning to write up the whole four days in Denmark in one post, but I fear this is getting overly long. So much happened in those 4 days, that I think it is better to break the story up into two or three posts total. Consequently, I will end this post here, having covered July 1st and 2nd, and continue with the events of July 3rd, and maybe the 4th tomorrow.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or wish me to expand on anything I’ve mentioned, please leave me a comment.

Take care, and see you tomorrow!


Paris, once again

When I left off, we had spent the day visiting the Eiffel Tower, then back to the hotel to become more adjusted to not only being in a different time zone  but also having the sun set around 10:30-11pm.

One thing Brenna had made clear was that she wanted to visit the Louvre, and so I had bought tickets ahead of time.  One added bonus for visiting many places where you need to buy a ticket – if you’re traveling with children, have them bring their school ID. When age was a factor, I had a double bonus – student rate for Brenna and senior rate for me. Yaaaayyyy!!!!!

Anyway, since I had Google Maps on my phone, we could pretty much find our way around. However, I felt more comfortable taking a taxi to where we were going and then taking our time exploring and finding our way back. So off we went to the Louvre.


While there were many wonderful things to see there, what Brenna REALLY wanted to see was Van Gogh – especially Starry Night. When we could not find it, we inquired from one of the guides, who informed us that we could find Van Gogh paintings in the Musee D’Orsay – not the Louvre. And a final irony – Starry Night was being displayed BACK IN NEW YORK!!!!! She lives in New York, and the painting was right there all along.

Our ticket for the Louvre was for 11am, so it was around noon when we set off  for the Musee D’Orsay to find Mr. Van Gogh, and we were not disappointed. There was a treasure trove of his paintings, and she was in heaven. As with ancient buildings, it is an awe-inspiring experience to be sharing the same space with objects and art conceived by human minds and created by human hands centuries, and sometimes millennia, in the past.

Besides paintings, there were beautiful sculptures. I am always amazed when I look at them, trying to imagine how a sculptor can view a block of marble or wood, imagine what it could become and then chip away bit by bit until he has the finished product. The artistry and realistic detail  on some of these statues was incredibly life-like.

IMG_0788 (1)IMG_0787IMG_0789

The grounds of the museums were also impressive with statues and even a re-creation of the Arc de Triomphe.

In addition to the museums, we literally walked miles, exploring the streets between the Louvre and our hotel. We passed many shops and Brenna discovered the French macaroon, different than what people in the United States think of when they hear that name. It is more like two soft cookies with a filling in between, and comes in a wide variety of flavors. And it’s also very expensive. She bought some, and I think some of her purchase was meant to be a gift when we got back to New York, but for some reason, they all ended up being eaten – I can’t imagine why (wink, wink).

See the source image

     delicious French macaroons

    Brenna’s mom suggested we also go to the Notre Dame cathedral, and compare it to other cathedrals or churches that we might visit, especially Kylemore Abbey which was on our bucket list for Ireland.

     After more walking, we finally found it. Since we spent our morning and early afternoon visiting the museums, it was late afternoon by the time we found Notre Dame. To get inside, you needed a ticket, and guess what – the line of people waiting to get in was quite literally around the block. So we made due with walking around the outside and will have to Google photographs to see what it looked like inside.

As we wandered, we also explored shops to search for gifts for friends and family, and discover mementos for ourselves. Brenna desperately wanted a hat, and Paris, being the fashion capital of the world, should have a nice selection – or so we thought. There were baseball caps and knit caps, but nothing you could call high fashion. Well, nothing except for a handmade hat that she came across – at the bargain price of 250 Euros! She had a set amount of money to spend, and so passed on the opportunity to buy a fancy Parisian hat. That was probably the first of many life lessons in managing her money…..

So by now, my feet were killing me, but salvation was in sight in the form of tour boats on the Seine River. We paid our euros and got a seat on the tour boat and went up and down the river listening to  commentary in both English and French.

Of course there were the bridges and the ornamentation on them and the unique street lights.

IMG_5894 (1)

From this photo you can see how easy it was to find our way back to the hotel – just walk towards the Eiffel Tower


 All of this was expected, but I learned something new. There is a statue next to the bridge and when it was constructed, it was used to measure the level of the water in the river.


It was difficult to imagine the water rising even to his waist. 

     Among our wanderings, we also walked to the Arc de Triomphe.  We followed the signs and eventually saw it. It was standing in the middle of an immense traffic circle with no crosswalk in sight. I saw many people there, so, thinking there must be a way,  we started crossing all the streets surrounding it and finally found a tunnel going under the street and emerging at the Arc.

Photographs simply do not do justice to its size.


Inside its columns are carved the names of, I am certain, people who distinguished themselves in various wars:


along with detailed sculptures


and several memorials with eternal flames to commemorate the dead:


There was also a doorway to go to the top of the Arc. However, not being a fan of heights, nor wanting to stand on another line to buy tickets to get there, we contented ourselves with exploring everything that could be seen while standing with our feet firmly planted on the ground.  And it was a very impressive and sobering monument to lives lost and victories won.

In our travels, we also came upon a monument to refugees:


The Republic of France in homage to the victims of racist persecution, anti-Semitism and crimes against humanity………………..

     A very sobering monument to remind us of the suffering resulting when humanity acts upon their worst instincts.

     And so our stay in Paris was quickly coming to an end. Back at the hotel, we had a nice dinner and I had the front desk print up our boarding passes. We also had them re-activate our magnetic room card keys. It seems that keeping the card key next to your cell phone will de-activate the card. This is something I had never come across before, so I do not know if I had just been lucky or if this is some new form of technology.

My other issue was my cell phone. In Mexico, I use Telcel as my carrier, but Telcel only works in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, so I was using my Verizon sim card and running up tons of charges on my bill. A Eurail SIM card was advertised for Europe before I left Mexico, but it was almost impossible to find a shop that sold them, and then I heard that it would take 24 hours to activate due to security concerns and regulations, so I bought a plan from Verizon for $10 per day, and that took care of that.

And so we spent our last night in Paris before catching the 6am Le Bus Direct to the airport in the morning to spend the 4th of July in Rebild, Denmark, the only place outside of the U.S. that has a real American Fourth of July.  Au revoir Paris and “hej danmark”!