Belated Post from June 26/27

I began my final morning feeling pretty well rested, and the sun was shining beautifully, so I decided to go out for one last stroll. There was an area that I had passed on the tram several times but had not explored, so I decided to take the 18 min ride there. I walked around for about 45 min, took some photos, and took the tram back to the hotel.

Amazing Breakfast!!!

Bloemenmarkt (I assume this translates to “flower market”

I did not eat any of these baked goods. They were just so pretty

Just Amsterdam Amsterdaming

Fortunately, check-out was noon, so I just relaxed until about 11:45. I took the public transportation to the airport, which was super easy. The walk to the train station was 7 minutes, I bought a ticket, and then I was on the very comfy train. The ride was only about 10 minutes. I got to the proper terminal and through security easily, and I found my airport lounge, where I hung out for about 4 hours. I’m thinking ahead to my coming week, so I thought it best to just rest. They had a lovely lunch buffet with salads, pumpkin soup, and a couscous dish. I found a seat, had my lunch, did some things online, and took a short nap.

My new hobby is airport lounges. They’re all different, and this one was quite fancy.

I got to the gate for my KLM flight and asked if I could use the priority boarding lane since I’m always in Zone 1 with Delta. I wouldn’t care about that, but I was thinking of overhead space for my bag since I would need to get off the plane as quickly as possible. I was preparing for getting to the theatre to see Audra McDonald in “Lady Day.” The flight was delayed a few minutes. That wasn’t so bad, but then we taxied for what seemed like 30 minutes. I thought we were driving to London! Finally we took off. The flight was very brief, but they served a beverage, and sandwich, and a cookie faster than I’ve ever seen. As we were flying over England, we seemed to really slow down, and we had to circle London a bit before landing. That delayed us even more. I got off the plane very quickly, walked past everyone, and ran to border patrol. I couldn’t believe the line. It appeared that an entire Asian country had just arrived in London. I asked if there was any way to get through more quickly, and I was told that I could apply for a frequent traveler thing with the UK. I’ll think about that. I wonder if they would have helped me if I had explained my situation?? Oh well, the line moved constantly, and I was through it in a reasonable amount of time. I then started running again to Heathrow Express, which is supposed to get you to Paddington Station in central London in 15 minutes. I forgot that if you were at terminal 4, where I arrived, you had to take another train before you can get on the Heathrow Express. There was a 15 min wait for that train. It finally came and got me to the Heathrow Express that was departing at 7:03. The show was at 7:45, and I almost didn’t even get on the train since I also had to take a 20 min tube ride to Leicester Square and then walk to the theatre. I got on anyway, and we got to London at around 7:20 or later. I ran like a crazy person through Paddington Station and don’t even remember seeing the station. I had my Oyster Card (London’s subway card) in my hand and tried to enter, but didn’t have enough credit for the ride. There was a free machine, so I went to reload. My first three attempts at using my credit card didn’t work, but I finally got it to work, ran down the escalators, made it to the platform, and the train came right away. It moved pretty quickly to the station I needed, and I again ran out of the station. I wasn’t sure which exit to take, so I just chose one, which was a horrible choice. I ended up in the bottom of a souvenir shop and had to find my way out. Finally, I found my way to the exit and made sure (with my phone) that I was going in the right direction. That was not easy on the uneven, brick sidewalks of London. I had to stop and walk a few times to regroup. Also, it was pretty a pretty warm night in London, so I was really working up a sweat. Finally, I saw the theatre in sight, and I ran across traffic to get there right at 7:44. I had read that there was no late seating for people sitting on stage, so this caused more stress. Security at the door needed to inspect my bags, I had to pick up my ticket, check my bags at the cloakroom, and be escorted to my seat. The man who appeared to be the house manager was rushing me along, understandably. Finally, I was in my seat onstage, a hot, sweaty, shaking mess, and I was sitting with a lovely Canadian family. I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, fanned myself with my ticket, and enjoyed the music that the combo was playing. I really needed some water, but there was no way to get it. The band played a few numbers before welcoming us to “the club” in Philly. Audra McDonald (Billy Holiday) came on stage, holding a drink. I have not read a synopsis (programs were £4, and I didn’t have any cash), but I believe this show happens at the end of Billy Holiday’s career when she was a heroine addict and an alcoholic, etc. I also assume that this was just supposed to be what one of her shows would have been like. She talked a lot about different things in her life. Sometimes the pianist would try to get her to sing a song. Sometimes she wouldn’t want to sing the song. As the show progressed, her condition deteriorated. She was drinking a lot, could hardly walk, would get emotional about certain stories, and at one point, she left the stage. She came back with a small dog but could hardly walk. From my vantage point, I sometimes was making eye contact with her, but sometimes I was watching her from behind. As the show ended, I was watching from behind, and I’m not quite sure what happened. She was singing a song, and the song continued, but she sort of stopped singing. I’ll have to watch the HBO special to see it all from the front. Then it was over. She bowed, I said “brava” as she walked by me, and I went to collect my bags. I told the person there that I was the crazy person who made it at the last minute. She said that she remembered me, but she had a bit of trouble finding my bags. I got them, though, and I stood outside the front of the theatre. It was much cooler, which was great, and I wondered whether she and the cast would come out to talk to the crowd. I didn’t see the stage door, so eventually I decided to walk around the theatre to see if I could find it. I made one left turn and didn’t see anything. Then I turned again, and saw it with a rather small line of people waiting! I was the last person in line, but when Audra came out, she came right to me (the last shall be first). I had met her once before about 17 years ago, so I wasn’t exactly star-struck. I told her how I had sent her a tweet to tell her that I was trying to make it from Heathrow and how I was a hot, sweaty mess after running through London to get there. She laughed at my story, thanked me for coming, and took a quick photo with me. That was certainly the icing on the cake. Of course, I desperately wanted to see her perform this role, but also I wanted to make use of the ticket that I had paid for, almost equally. She is a wonderful singer and actress, and it was inspiring to see her do this. The show was better than I expected, as I forgot that I was watching Audra McDonald on stage several times. I always say that things work out. This time I didn’t even fully believe that they would work out for me to make it on time, but that belief was certainly reaffirmed from this experience. Actually things more than worked out since I had the chance to meet Audra and take a photo!

From my seat on the stage

I figured, even if I don’t get a pic with her, I’ll have this…
Then I decided to walk around back and found this!
She’s so lovely

I eventually made my way to the tube, which was also a bit of a nightmare. It was hot in the station, and there were delays on the crowded station. Also, I had to go all the way back to the airport. I had booked a hotel room there since I would have to be at the airport at around 7 am for my 9:05 flight to JFK. I finally arrived at my hotel at around midnight, after a long train ride and a bus ride. Going to sleep wasn’t easy, and I didn’t sleep very soundly, after the drama and excitement of the evening. You only live once, though, and I would have plenty of napping opportunities on my two flights home.

My somewhat fancy, old-school hotel. The presidential suite was on my floor, but my key didn’t open it.

I woke up at around 5:15, had an instant coffee that was supplied in my room, got ready, and went to check out. I took the public transport bus to the airport, which was a quick, easy ride.

Bus to the airport

Then I found my terminal and breezed through security. TSA Pre-check definitely worked for me this time. I didn’t actually even show my passport to anyone until I got to my gate. Again, I found the airport lounge and hung out with a bit of coffee and breakfast until 8:05, when my gate was announced. I walked the rather long walk there, and I was able to walk right onto the plane. I was one of the earlier people onboard, so I had time to get myself situated in a comfortable way. We actually took off right on time, which was wonderful and boded very well for my change of flights in NYC.

At JFK, I found my airport lounge, had a snack/light lunch, and relaxed until my final flight home. While there, I made a reservation with Enterprise for a cargo van for cleaning out my house in Demorest (more on that soon). The flight to Atlanta was right on time, and I took an Uber home. The Uber driver was pretty rude but got me home quickly. I dropped my things at home and drove to Enterprise to get the cargo van before they closed at 6 pm. I then got a quick bite for dinner at Tin Drum and drove to Demorest to spend the night. When I got there, I put a few things in the van but decided to inflate the air mattress and go to bed around 9:30. I had a decent night’s sleep and got up the next morning around 6:00 to completely empty the house. I had the van returned to Enterprise in Atlanta by 11:30. Then I finally took a shower, had some lunch, and got ready for a choral gig at GA State at 1:30, which I would be doing the rest of the week. No rest for the weary!

Empty house ready for new owners!

As I’m sure you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I didn’t just write about the good stuff. It was almost all good stuff, and I’d happily do any of it again!

There are gypsies in Oslo!

  Yesterday was pretty much taken over by travel. I had to be at Reykjavik City Hall at 9:00 to leave for the airport. I was picked up by a small bus that would wind its way through the narrow city streets picking up quite a few passengers to take us all to the bus station. At the bus station, we got on the larger bus that took us all to the airport. They were quite prompt and left at 9:31. We were told that the ride would take about 50 minutes, and we were pulling into the airport at 10:21.

 It’s a good thing we were on time, because the line to check bags with Norwegian Air was quite long. It moved pretty quickly, though, and probably took about 30 minutes. Somehow, the security line was extremely short and quick! I had planned to buy lunch on the plane, because it seemed that they had some decent options. However, an announcement was made that our flight had “low catering,” so we should buy food in the airport to eat. I found a chef salad and a bar made of dates, rice crispies, butter, and chocolate.

Once again, I was in the front of the plane (aisle seat on the 1st row), because I paid a little extra for extra leg room. A guy asked if I would trade seats with him (middle seat in the 3rd row) so that he could sit by his girlfriend. Obviously, I had to disappoint him. However, the window seat in our row was available, so the couple got to sit together after all.

  The flight was about 2.5 hours and completely uneventful. When we arrived at Oslo Airport, I was first off the plane, but when I got to the end of the ramp off the plane, the door was locked! I have no idea why it was locked, but it opened after a few minutes. This was a much busier airport than Reykjavik! On the way to baggage claim, just like in Reykjavik, you go through the duty free shop before you get your bag. Duty free is serious business in Skandinavia! From what I understand, it’s because taxes are so high on alcohol sales (and chocolate & perfume, I suppose).

My bag was ready for me soon after arriving at the carousel, and I found the express train to Oslo. In order to take the train, you simply swipe your credit card at the gate and press a button telling your destination. So simple! As I arrived at track 3, the train was leaving! However, the next one showed up in about 5 minutes. It was quite posh, and it had a charger for the phone! It was a nice 20 minute ride to Oslo with some beautiful views of the countryside.  

  My house in Oslo is described as “great room close to central station.” OK, sounds great! In the grand scheme of things, it is close–less than 2 K–but it’s mostly uphill. Also, it was drizzling occasionally. For a few minutes, I did not like Oslo! As I passed the Oslo Hospital, which Ole (my host) described as a church in his directions, a group of gypsy women were standing outside. One of them smiled at me, and I kept walking. This just brought back memories of when my computer was stolen in Prague–supposedly by gypsies. I’m sure they can’t get into Ole’s house as easily as they got into Hotel Kafka in Prague! I’m sure these are nice gypsies, anyway!

Once I found Ole’s apartment, I got my key from the lock box by the door, and helped myself to my room. It’s nice and simple with Ikea furniture, as one might expect. Basically, this apartment is two rooms separated by a kitchen and bathroom–a pretty nice layout, actually. Ole showed up a few minutes later and was very nice and happy to answer my questions. I told him the walk was farther than I expected but that the exercise was good, and I asked how to buy a bus ticket. He said I could do that at the grocery store.

After a bit of rest, I went down to the grocery store, where I bough eggs, plums, and spinach for breakfast, along with my bus ticket. I put the food away and went off to find the bus, which would take me to opera night at the Underwater Pub. Somehow I found out online that every Tuesday and Thursday, singers from the Oslo Opera and the opera school sing there. My walk to the bus stop was through a cemetery. The sun was coming out after a rainy day, so the light was great. I love how the good weather follows me! 

    I arrived at The Underwater Pub at around 8:15 and asked the bartender how it all works. He was very friendly and helpful and explained that they have menus from three takeout places, and at the upstairs bar, you can place an order for food from one of them. You pay them, they call, and the food is delivered to your table. That’s a great thing! I ordered Penang Curry, sat down at his bar, which had a great view of where the singers would be, and ordered a glass of wine, which was on tap there.

I thought the singing was supposed to begin around 8:15, but I must done my math wrong when translating from 24-hr time. That gave me time to eat my food, which was delicious! The guy had assured me that the chef at the Thai place was very serious about his food, and he was right. You could tell that the vegetables were beautifully julienned–and it tasted great! 

 Finally, at around 9:15 the singing started. A man, who I believe was the owner of the place, announced the singers and what they would be singing. All I understood was that I would be hearing ‘Questa o quella” by Verdi, as well as “Non so piu” and “In diesem heilgen Halle” by Mozart. Sounds good. The tenor started with “Questa o quella,” and he was fantastic. I really liked the way he sang–very simple and easy–which is saying a lot! I don’t usually enjoy tenors! The mezzo sang “Non so piu.” She was very good, although there was something odd about her voice, but she was a great actress. Then, the bass sang his aria, which was also very good.  That was the end of that set. The break between sets is quite long, and I decided that I would stay for just one more so that I would get home before midnight. The second set was also very good. It was the same singers singing different arias. The mezzo sang an aria from Carmen, and the tenor sang some great aria that I do not know. I recorded about 10 seconds of it hoping someone can help me figure it out! 

        I got directions back to the apartment before I left. This time I took tram #18, which took my through what seemed to be some of the main parts of town. I made note of a few places I would  like to visit. The tram dropped me off at Oslo Hospital. I walked by the gypsies again and made it safely home!

Singing, Eating, and Traveling Solo

If you don’t know me, I’m a singer and Assistant Professor of Music at Piedmont College in Demorest, GA. I have always loved food, and now that I’m able to afford to travel more, it is a major passion. Some people show interest in what I do, particularly traveling (and singing), so I thought a blog would be a good place to share my experiences with others, as well as to chronicle them for myself.

My first trip of Summer Break 2015 is to Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. I leave on Monday, May 4, and I’m very excited!! I’ll be traveling with my MacBook, so I will be able to keep this updated throughout the journey. That’s the plan, anyway! Perhaps, as I have time, I will include some of my past travels.