Sunday, December 29, 2013

Guidebooks or the Web?

Here is a good article from the Sunday, 12/29/13, NYT Travel section on using guidebooks or the Web for travel planning.  It really is a false choice:  we always use both.

But, we wouldn't even think of going on a trip without our guidebooks.  Our two favorites are the Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.  Whenever possible we bring a Streetwise map as well.

For our upcoming trip to Riga and Vilnius we picked up the Lonely Planet Baltics and I got Rick Steves' Northern European Cruise ports from the library for his section on Riga ("undiscovered gem!") since he doesn't have a separate Baltic book.

There is a Latvian Lutheran church and school in Wauwatosa, about 12 blocks from our house that has services in Latvian three weekends a month.  We'll get in touch with them for some advice on Riga and a crash course in Latvian.

Their church was on the Windows Into Wauwatosa tour last year and we stopped in.  They were understandably quite proud that they had a thriving congregation and about 20 students in their school.

Who'd have thought there would be a Latvian community in Wauwatosa?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Vacation 2014

We finally decided on our 2014 vacation destination for 2014:  Riga, Latvia.  We'll spend 2 -3 days in either Tallinn, Estonia or Vilnius, Lithuania: we haven't decided which.  We already bought tickets.

Our flights are excellent:  Chicago to Stockholm to Riga and the layover in Stockholm is just over a two hours.  We're flying SAS.  (It would have been cool to fly Lufthansa, the airline of the Hanseatic League)

Now it's time for research.

The vacation begins once you decide where to go!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New York, October 24 - 27, 2013

This was our fourth trip to New York since we first went there in 2005.  You can see all of our pictures here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

  • Checked in to the Marcel Hotel on 24th & 3rd.  Fantastic location!  We had a great view of the Empire State Building from our room.  They had a happy hour in their 10th floor lounge with free wine on weeknights.
  • The Frick. They had just opened an exhibit of the Dutch Masters, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals, including Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring."  We have reciprocity with the Frick through the Milwaukee Art Museum so we always go there.
  • We stopped for a drink at the Banc Cafe on Third St (lots of fun stuff on Third!).  Turns out Stella Artois was having a promotion of their "cidre."  I'm not a big fan of hard cider, but I had one anyway (it was free).  It was pretty good, sort of wine like.

    The Stella promoter came over and chatted with us for a while.  He had been at the annual Kohler food & wine event in Kohler, WI.  He bought us another cidre and a couple of fantastic hors d'oeuvres: tuna tartar with avocado and pork belly with greens.  A serendipitous stop!
  • We wanted Indian food for dinner that night, so we walked around in Murray Hill looking at different menus.  On our second time around, we chose Bhatti, which turned out to be an excellent choice.  They didn't serve wine there, so Laurie ran across the street to pick up a bottle of a crisp Reisling.  We asked our waiter for recommendations and he suggested the lamb chops, chicken marsala, and a shrimp curry with naan.  We went with that and were delighted.  It was probably the best Indian meal we've ever had.
Friday, October 25th
  • The big event of Friday was The Cloisters.  The Cloisters is a museum of medieval art donated to New York by John Rockefeller and is part of the Met.  A lot of the stuff is parts of buildings taken from Europe in the last 200 years.  I felt a little uncomfortable with that.
    The park leading to the museum, overlooking the Hudson River was beautiful.
  • Grant's Tomb is run by the National Parks Service.  We do National Parks well, and this monument is no exception.  We had a nice chat with the guard, who was a big fan of U.S. Grant and the Grand Army of the Republic.  "We won, because Grant was better than Lee!"
  • We stopped in at the beautiful Riverside church across from Grant's and heard a concert, then on to St. John the Devine Episcopal church, the largest church with the largest stained glass window in the United States.
  • Dinner was at Goat Town, located on 5th Street and Avenue A.  It was a great little place we discovered on line.  Appetizers were grilled octopus and crostinnis, entrees were moulles and frites (Laurie) and pork sirloin (Matthew).  It was a great day.

Saturday, October 26th
  • Green-Wood cemetery is a 550 acre wooded cemetery in Brooklyn, founded in 1838.  In 1980 a crate full of parakeets broke open near here and they all escaped.  they have been living at the entrance ever since.

    The cemetery has a Revolutionary War monument to the Battle of Long Island.
    Samuel Mores's grave was my favorite, Laurie liked seeing Basquiat.  It was cool to see Boss Tweed's, too.
  • Saturday night we saw the play, 'Mildred Fierce," a parody of the Joan Crawford movie "Mildred Pierce" (1945), with most of the actors in drag.  Hilarious!  It helped a lot to have seen the move before.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Copenhagen, May 4 - 11, 2013

See all of our photos here.

Day 1 Friday 5/3/2013
  • Leave O’Hare 10:00PM
Day 2, Saturday 5/4
  • Stroll down Stroet
  • Copenhagen University
  • Our first Smorbrod for dinner
Day 3, Sunday 5/5
  • KastlessKirflen Park
  • Danish Resistance Museum (burnt down!)
  • Little mermaid
  • National Museum of Early Danish History
  • Street Fair behind train station
  • Christianshavn & Christiania
Day 4, Monday 5/6
  • Rosenborg castle & gardens
  • Assistens Kirkegard (cemetery)
    • Kierkegaard
    • Niels Bohr
    • HC Andersen
  • Tycho Brahe Planetarium
  • Met with Madeline’s friend Astrid
Day 5, Tuesday 5/7
  • Train to Fredriksborg Castle
    1. Church with Coats of Arms
    2. Bayoux Tapestry
  • Train to Kronborg Castle in Hellsingor
    1. Little girl on train getting her ticket alone sans issues
    2. Walked the grounds
    3. Views of Sweden
    4. Smorrbrod for lunch
  • Train to Louisiana modern art museum
  • Pronounced like my grandmother would “Loo zee ana”
  • Train back to Copenhagen
    1. Music at trinity Church on our way home – no idea what it was about
Day 6, Wednesday 5/8
  • Train to Rosskilde

    1. Cathedral
·         Prayer service with Danish Lutherans
    1. Street market
    2. Viking Museum
  • Train back to Copenhagen
    1. Thorvvaldsen Museum – 19th c. Sculpture
    2. Copenhagen Library – The Black Diamond
    3. Fabulous dinner at Geist
Day 7, Thursday 5/9
  • Fredricksburg castle
  • City Hall- closed!
  • Church of Our Lady w/ Thorvaldsen sculpture
  • Indian food for lunch
  • Botanical gardens w/ Natural History Museum
  • Rosenberg castle park
  • Tivoli amusement park
Day 8, Friday 5/10
  • I don’t remember what we did on our last full day
Day 9, Saturday 5/11

  • Flew home

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New York Wedding - July 2012

I had the honor to officiate  Amy Wazny & Sara Nolan's wedding last year.  They had it in Central Park in New York City.  The setting was awesome, the brides were beautiful, and everyone had a great time.

In addition to the wedding, we also went to the New York Botanical Gardens and saw the play "Potted Potter."  Of course, we also went to the Frick, which we do every time we're in NY.

The bartender at the Russian Tea Room told Laurie that the best vodka was Russian Standard, and that has been her vodka of choice ever since.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Italy 2012

Ok, I'm a year late, but I do want to get this posted for my records.  We flew out of Chicago to Milan on April 21, 2012.

Day 1 Milan

Day 2 Train to Florence
Day 4 Florence

Day 5
Day 7 Venice
Day 8 Milan
Day 9 Home again