5 Helpful Travel Products

This is a brief one! I am highlighting 5 products that have been useful in my recent travels. Feel free to contact me below or visit my website!

When the handle broke on my old carryon, I did an Amazon search and found that they are now selling their own line of luggage. I love the way this suitcase looks and the way it rolls. The orange also stands out if you have to check it. I hope you’ll choose a different color, though, so our bags don’t get confused! 🙂

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These Keens are SO comfortable for walking! I bought them for those occasions when you need to wear closed toed shoes but don’t want to wear shoes or socks.

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I wanted a functional, inexpensive backpack, and this one is working out very well for me. It’s not too large and bulky, but it holds what I need it to hold!

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A Kindle is probably an obvious travel accessory, but I haven’t always had one. I love this one because it can either be lit or not. If you’re reading in a well lit place, you can turn off the light, or you can turn it on as dim or as bright as you want it!

These luggage tags are great! When you go on a cruise, you can always print out your luggage tags before the cruise, so you print them, cut them out, fold them, and stuff them in these tags. They have a very tough zip-lock seal at the top, so your tag is safe from any water or rough treatment.

Highwind Cruise Luggage Tags 8 Pack

Cruise vs All-Inclusive: The Pilkington Perspective

 

This post is inspired by my recent visit to El Dorado Royale in Cancun, Mexico. It was my first visit to an all-inclusive resort. I discuss check-in, the property, entertainment, meal times and food, as well as entertainment and activities. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to reach out if I can help you decide what is best for you!

It is no secret, I love going on cruises, whether is a 3-day cruise or a 15-day cruise. I first started going on cruises when, as a single college professor, I was looking for somewhere to travel solo during spring break. I was able to afford a decent trip, but all of the “deals” I found required a single supplement (the fine print would say something like “$250 supplement for solo travelers”), or I would have to pay double. With a lot of internet research, I found out about Norwegian Cruise Line’s studio cabins, which are specifically for the solo cabins. I decided on the NCL Epic, which was one of the first ships to offer the studios. They also have the “Studio Lounge,” which hosts a daily solo meet-up. This is not a match making thing. It is simply to encourage people to mingle, make friends, and go to dinner and events together.

I had no idea whether or not I would love or hate the cruise, whether I would be bored, whether I would make friends, or what would happen. On the first night, I went to the solo gathering and ended up having dinner with three people who became my friends for the rest of the cruise. We had a fantastic time. There is a general understanding among solo travelers that there is no pressure to hang out. Solo time is respected, but if you want to interact, there is a place for you. At the end of the 7-day cruise, I didn’t want to leave. It was the most fun, relaxing vacation I had ever had. That was in 2015, and I have been on eight other NCL cruises since then, as well as one on Holland America and another with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. Even my worst cruise wasn’t bad, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

Now that I am a travel advisor, I feel a bit of a need to experience different locations and ways of traveling. As I travel, I try to see the big picture, but I also see myself as an advocate for the solo traveler. In the past year, I was unusually aware of several friends going on vacation in Cancun, so when I found myself with a few free days at the end of the summer, I decided on a quick visit to El Dorado Royale. Since they offered a rate for one person, that seemed like a good sign.

I flew direct from Atlanta to Cancun and then took the shuttle (paid for with my reservation) from Cancun airport to the resort. From the start, everyone was very friendly. However, check-in was annoying and lengthy. All I cared about was lunch since it was 2:00 EST and I hadn’t eaten. I was told that my room was not ready, but I was able to enjoy the property, eat lunch, etc, and return at 3:00 CST for my room. I had learned from cruises to pack my swimsuit in my backpack so that when my suitcase is taken, I can change. I did not realize that the same would apply here, so I was stuck in the clothes that I had flown in.

I was directed to a restaurant overlooking the ocean and had a nice, light lunch. I then checked out some of the property before going back to the lobby to see if my room was ready. It wasn’t, so I walked around some more and returned at 3:00. It still wan’t ready, and I showed obvious disappointment. About 30 seconds later, a bellman came and told me that we were going to go to my room, and hopefully it would be ready when we arrived. As we arrived, they were putting the finishing touches on the room, so that was fine! For comparison, a cruise is similar in this way. An announcement is made giving an estimate of when cabins will be ready, and then a final announcement is made when they are ready.  I appreciate that on a cruise, there is no need to keep checking, unless you choose to do that. Next time at a resort, I will be prepared with a change of clothes!

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The property was beautiful and well maintained. The pools were plentiful, with bars and restaurants scattered about conveniently. Of course, this was a beachfront property, but I didn’t see a lot of people in the ocean or on the beach. Also, my room, which was described as a “beachfront suite,” was not really beachfront. I had a view of palm trees and had to duck and squint through the branches to see the beach or the ocean. That was a bit of a disappointment.

Resort Beachfront palm trees
View from my room

At mealtimes on an NCL cruise, you arrive at the restaurant and are asked for your keycard, and they will ask how many. If you are dining alone, there is no issue made of it. I should mention that sometimes you will be asked if you would like to be seated with other people, and on certain days, that could be nice. At El Dorado Royale, when I showed up at a restaurant alone, I was usually asked if I would like a table for two. I would look around awkwardly at the otherwise empty lobby and say, “No. I am only one person.” This was so annoying to me, and when I provided feedback about it, their response was that since it is adults only, they are trained to assume that people are in couples. Ugh, that is an old-fashioned, unhelpful response! While I don’t mind dining alone anywhere, it is best if dining alone is treated as a non-issue, as it is on cruises.

Speaking of mealtime, I should discuss food. I chose El Dorado Royale because they advertise their “Gourmet Inclusive Experience.” Based on reviews I read, my expectations were cautiously optimistic, and I was pleasantly surprised. On my first night, I went to the Fuentes Culinary Theatre, which is basically a cooking show. It was fun, and the food was interesting and delicious. Also, after googling the wines offered in the wine pairings, I decided to pay for the pairings. While I didn’t necessarily feel that the wines were perfect pairings for the courses, I enjoyed all of the wines offered. Another outstanding meal was a lunch at the Asian restaurant, Kampai. The Korean beef was delicious. Also, the steak dinner I had at Santa Fe was delicious! Although it can vary in quality, I always enjoy most of my cruise food as well, so in the food category, cruise vs resort are quite even.

 

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At the resort, there would be a few entertainment options each evening. There was a guitarist who sang some songs by one of the bars/restaurants, and there were different shows each night. I would say that the entertainment was good enough. On a cruise, the same is true. The shows are on a grander scale, though. On a cruise, though, you will find musical acts throughout the ship at any time during the day. At the pool, music will vary throughout the day from a DJ to different live bands, and inside the ship, there will be different small acts scattered about at different times. At the resort, you would only find recorded music at the pools during the day. I found that different pools had different music, though, and I liked the chill “house” music that was played at the pool by the Health Bar that served smoothies, salads, etc.

Mexican Fiesta show at El Dorado
Mexican Fiesta show at El Dorado

On a cruise, you can walk for miles going from one thing to another. If you have trouble walking, you either walk less, or you take a motorized scooter with you. You also have the option of stairs or elevator to go up or down. At a resort, the property is very spread out, and you can also do a ton of walking. However, at this resort, there were golf carts everywhere ready to shuttle people about. It is just like taking a taxi, and you tell them where you want to go. To get to some restaurants would be a 20 minute walk, or a quick ride on a golf cart. I generally prefer walking, but at the same time, when you choose to walk at the resort, you arrive sweaty. There is no escaping the heat! On a cruise, when you walk, you can escape the heat by going inside.

Golf Cart ride at all inclusive resort
Golf Cart Ride

I suppose some people like a change of scenery, and some people like to be at the same place for a while. If you are at a resort, you are just at the resort, unless you pay a lot of money to leave the resort. You have to arrange for a taxi and go through security as you come and go, and the taxis are not cheap. I visited a different resort that I chose because it was nearby, and the taxi was $20 each way! There were a lot of British people at this resort, and some told me that they were there for two weeks. If that’s what they like, that’s fine, but I was ready for something different after 3 days. Of course, on a cruise, you either have a sea day or a port day. Sea days are fun for enjoying the ship, but after one or two, you are ready for a port day, and then you end up on a different island, usually in a different country. That is fun and fascinating to me! I have heard of people who fear feeling stir-crazy or claustrophobic on a ship, but I actually felt more that way at a resort.

Finally, as far as activities, there were some good ones offered at the resort throughout the day. I did the 8am yoga class each day, and they were fantastic. Other things, such as cooking classes, water polo, bike ride, and rifle shooting were all available and free of charge. There was a weekly schedule posted, and it appeared that the schedule would remain the same for the season. On a cruise, there are also many different activities on board, such as language classes, fitness classes, dancing classes, and game shows. Most are free, but some have an extra charge. I feel like there is typically a greater variety of activities on a cruise, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety offered at the resort.

Yoga class at El Dorado Royale
Yoga class at El Dorado Royale

To sum it all up, each type of vacation has its own set of pros and cons. For me the cruise wins, especially Norwegian Cruise Line, because of how solo travelers are treated. Maybe other resorts are geared toward the solo traveler (I need to find them), but it seems that couples are generally happier at a resort. I enjoy seeing a new place each day but having the comfort of my cruise cabin; however, I understand that some people like to stay put and do nothing but drink cocktails by the pool all day. Another important thing is that I love on a cruise is getting up to see the sunrise and then seeing it set in the evening. At this particular resort, I found that near impossible. Maybe I could have seen the sunrise on the beach, but the sunset was behind the trees. I will try other resorts in the future, but the cruise has my heart for the overall experience!

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My Solo 7-Day Alaska Cruise: How and Why

IMG_0075Over the past year, I have transitioned from being a full time college professor to being a freelance voice teacher, singer, and travel advisor with Travelex International. Summer is a scary time for an educator since income is reduced, but I’ve become pretty good at saving thanks to my budgeting app that I mention later. While I might be a bit crazy to book an Alaska cruise with a somewhat uncertain future, I knew that everything would work out (without going into debt)!

I usually cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line because they have studio cabins, which are intended for solo travelers. In case you didn’t know, solo travelers usually have to pay for 2 people, and that’s really annoying! NCL’s studio cabins are great. They are 100 square feet, but they’re so well designed that it’s comfortable enough. Even if they were not so well designed, I have no interest in spending time in my cabin, except to sleep and shower!

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NCL Bliss Studio

One of my favorite features about the studio cabins on NCL Bliss is the “virtual balcony”. It might sound cheesy, but it is a the screen to the right of the bed, and it shows you what is happening on the outside of the ship. The regular interior cabins don’t have that, so this is a nice little perk. You can also always turn the television (to the left of the bed) to “a view from the bridge” which shows what the captain sees in front of the ship. Another fun feature of staying in a studio is the Studio Lounge, which is sort of a living room and gathering place for solo travelers.

The Studio Lounge on Norwegian Bliss
NCL Bliss Studio Lounge

The “studio host” will have daily meeting at around 5:00 to organize activities, dinners, etc for those who want do things with other people. I have made some really fun friends this way, and I am still in touch with them. My FAVORITE thing in the Studio Lounge is the coffee machine. It is an automatic espresso machine that grinds fresh beans and brews espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos for free. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you want espresso elsewhere on the ship, you have to pay for it. This machine made my mornings so much better!

In searching for an Alaska cruise, I considered NCL Joy, Bliss, and Jewel. Jewel was actually the least expensive cruise, but it was a one-way cruise. While that is actually appealing, it complicates getting flights. If the cruise leaves from Seward, AK, you fly to Anchorage and make your way to Seward, which is over 2 hours away. That is fine, but it would be best to have one or two days to enjoy the area before the cruise. I didn’t have that option on this trip. Then you disembark in Victoria, B.C. and have to fly home from there. I decided that round trip from Seattle was a better option for me.google map anchorage seward

That left me to choose between Bliss & Joy. I sailed on Bliss in May of 2018 and had an amazing experience. I also got to know a lot of the staff and wanted to see some familiar faces. Joy was originally designed for the Asian market but was reworked for US sailings. While it would have been fun to sail on a different ship, I chose Bliss.

I use YNAB (You Need A Budget), which really has changed my financial life. It is a budgeting app that works a bit differently. You place money into categories as you make it, so every dollar has a job. Travel is a priority, so this has allowed me to make it a priority while paying my other bills!

That is the How & Why of my Alaska cruise. I will soon publish a post about the actual cruise, which was wonderful!

My Day in Havana

As usual, I woke early, and I’m glad I did. It was before sunrise, and I went up to the observation deck (I was on a cruise–Norwegian Sky) to see what I could see. When I first got up there, it was still pretty dark, and you could see lights in the distance. As I made my way to the front of the ship, I found a good place to hang out to watch the sunrise as we approached Havana. There were probably 20 people out there, and typical for the sunrise crowd, it was pretty quiet. There was a different mood as we approached Havana, though. One man standing near me seemed reflective, and I’d say it’s possible that he was originally from Cuba. For me, it was somewhat surreal to be approaching this forbidden island that I’ve heard of my whole life. As I prepared for my trip, I did quite a bit of research to understand the history of what had happened there. That made me more excited to actually be there. Norwegian Cruise Line could not have planned the approach to Cuba better, and I don’t really believe that they did plan to arrive precisely as the sun was rising. It was absolutely stunning to see the dramatic colors of the sky along with the dramatic architecture of Havana.

I got some breakfast and went back to my cabin to get ready for the day. I was scheduled to meet Ramona and Donna at 8:15. Ramona noticed that I was traveling solo when we were waiting in the cruise terminal in Miami, and she asked if I would like to join her and her daughter on their day in Havana. They had arranged a tour guide to take them on a walking tour and classic car tour. I’m so glad that I met her and accepted her offer. It was a wonderful day. My only condition was that we went to the place I had planned to have lunch!

It took a while to get off the ship and through customs. In addition to the lines of people disembarking, there was a computer problem in the immigration line. We made it, though, and we met Luis, our tour guide, right on time at the Russian Orthodox church. He was very friendly and spoke excellent English. He apologized, though, because he had been giving tours in German recently. He told us that he learned German on his own! Also, his previous career was as an English teacher. The meeting place was also very close to the Havana Club Rum Museum, so we stopped by there to arrange a tour for later. We then started our walking tour, which was necessary since cars are not allowed on many of the streets in the Old Town. Here are some of the sights along the way:

Meeting Luis, our guide

A place where Cubans go for their rations
So, the woman is kind of interesting, but the building is the actual subject
Government building
Train car that used to transport important people
I was enjoying this guy’s music. Wished I had some coins to give him.
We were told that this has something to do with women wearing the pants.
Plaza vieja
Plaza Vieja with a sculpture of the national flower

Looking into the hotel where Hemingway stayed for a while.

“Shrine” to Heminway at Hotel Ambos Mundos

Old apothecary shop
Trompe l’oeil
Catedral de la Habana

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Me with my mojito
Inside La Bodeguita del Medio (Hemingway’s place for mojitos)
Wooden street pavers

Going up the stairs at the rum museum
Courtyard at the rum museum

Tasting after the tour. Donna won a drink for answering a question

After the rum tour, we finally met our car, which was a green Oldsmobile. I thought 61 was the date, but someone told me that’s after the trade embargo. Maybe it was 58? Here it is, along with the Russian Orthodox church in the background.

Our first stop on the car tour was lunch at La Guarida. I read about this over and over as I was researching Havana, so this was the one place that I felt I must visit for a meal. La Guarida is a paladar, which is a restaurant run out of a private residence. If I had been walking, I likely would have missed it. Part of the charm is the staircase that looks like it’s in ruins. It was a fun surprise to see the linens hanging to dry as we walked up the stairs. Some photos from our experience there:

Yucca Fritters
Ropa Vieja–Yum!

The check was presented in this beautiful box

The handwashing area outside the toilets.
View from La Guarida.

I wish I knew what this wall says.

Next stop was the Hotel Nacional, which was modeled after The Breakers in Palm Beach Florida. I was excited to see that since The Breakers is one of my favorite places to visit in Palm Beach (just to visit–not to stay). It was interesting to see that it actually was very similar in design, especially from the outside. The inside was similar too, but a bit less fancy, as one might expect.

A menu at the restaurant, featuring photos of famous people.

We then went to the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square). It’s very important to the politics of Cuba (description from Wikipedia).

Luis, the tour guide, then took us to a shop to buy rum and cigars. Although I have no interest in smoking anything, I bought three cigars to give to people who might appreciate them. I also bought 3 different small bottles of rum (for research). As Donna and I left the shop, we found Ramona outside enjoying a cigarillo.

Although Havana Club is more popular, it seems that Cubans prefer Santiago de Cuba rum.

Next stop was La Floridita, where Hemingway went to drink daiquiris. It’s also known as the birthplace of the daiquiri! It was a fun experience with live music playing.

A few other sights as we ended our tour:

Bacardi Building–they moved to Puerto Rico after the revolution.
Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso (Alicia was a famous ballerina)
Capitol
HUGE flea market

I went back to the ship for dinner, rested a bit, and went back out by myself. Although the streets were dimly lit, I felt more safe walking alone there than I would on many streets in Atlanta. It was great to see Havana at night! I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up, but I had a few places marked on my map. I had downloaded Havana in Google Maps, and I was very happy the the GPS worked even without cellular service. I ended up at a place called Siá-Kará Café. There were some great musicians playing, especially the saxophonist. I got a seat at the bar and ordered a Cuba Libre and flan. Both were wonderful. I had a great conversation with one of the servers, and it was very interesting to get his take on life in Cuba. By the way, I didn’t pry. He just started telling me about his life. On my next trip to Havana, I hope to visit there again!

Gran Teatro at night

Flan & Cuba Libre

A few more photos of the walk back to the ship:

Supposed to be a good place to go

The next morning, we were still in Havana until 11:30. I decided to just stay on the ship, since I had a very full day from 8:15am until almost midnight. I chose to keep that beautiful day as my Havana experience. Another thing is that I spent over $200! You could spend much less per day, but I’d say I packed about 3 days of enjoyment and exploration into one. I was eating a wonderful lunch in the main dining room as we sailed away from Havana:

Ah, I can’t wait to go back!

Day 8: Sea Day!

Again, I slept pretty well, although I woke up a few times. This time, though, I slept until 7:30, which was 8:30 since we crossed a time zone! I had placed a room service card for breakfast on my door the previous night, and it was supposed to arrive between 6:30 & 7:00. I suspected that something had gone wrong earlier, because it was gone about 2 minutes after I put it there. As I was leaving to get breakfast at the buffet, I noticed that it had somehow fallen into a cubby by my door. Oh well, I think I actually made better choices at the buffet. I had an odd assortment of granola, muesli, yogurt, and fruit. I took it back to my room, along with a small pack of Nutella. This, along with coffee from my Nespresso machine and an apple, made for a lovely breakfast on my sofa. I then did my typical, full yoga routine, which my body thanked me for. It was nice to have time time and space to do it, accompanied by piano tunes on one of the tv channels, which featured such favorites as the theme from “Ice Castles.”
I thought it was kind of cold outside, so I finally ventured out to my balcony, where I discovered that the temperature was pretty nice. Over to the left, I saw a ship, along with what looked like some windmills, in the distance. 


It was time for the hot tub. I’m not normally a huge fan, but with the cooler weather, it sounded perfect. It was quite nice, and the pool deck was beginning to fill up with people fully dressed and sun bathing. After I got out of the hot tub and sat in a chair, I was a bit cold, so I decided to go play $10 budget bingo, which was scheduled for 11:00. Of course, they tried to sell me the $30 package with more cards, but I stuck with $10. At 11, they announced that the game was canceled because there weren’t enough people there. They were giving everyone more cards, though, and we could play at the 4:00 game, which would have a larger jackpot. 


Oh well. I took my cards to my room and discovered that there would be a bouillabaisse demonstration in the atrium at 11:30. Bouillabaisse, shower, lunch, more hot tub/sun, sounded like a good itinerary for the near future. 


I wasn’t sure which place to try for lunch, but I thought I’d try the same place as yesterday since I liked the server. Unfortunately, they had the exact same menu, so I decided to try the main dining room. I wasn’t too excited about their entrees, so I ordered two salads: the crab salad and the arugula and shrimp salad. 


My thinking was that I would then check the systems and see if I’d like to have a main course in another restaurant. I got the NY Strip with Parmesan truffle fries on my mind that I had seen on the menu at Cagney’s, so that’s what I did. It was great, but I only ate half of it. 


Just a side note about the music that was playing. It was lovely and non-intrusive, but I really have a problem with instrumental arrangements of vocal music, unless it’s something like a Liszt arrangement of a Schumann song. They were playing a piano version of “Tell me on a Sunday” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I was probably the only person who noticed, but I did. It didn’t actually bother me so much, but if I put on Pandora and ask for classical piano music, that is not what I want. Just give me some Chopin!

After Cagney’s I went up to the buffet/pool deck to check out desserts. I found a small serving of apple strudel and had it with a small bit of vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce. Yum. I then returned to my room and had a 10 minute nap on my left side in the sun on the balcony. Now, that, followed by an espresso, was heavenly. 


Post-nap, sun and hot tub seemed appropriate. The breeze on the pool deck was stronger and colder than on my balcony, but as I stayed in the sun, I got warmer. I stayed in the sun for about 30 minutes and then got in the hot tub, which was great after the dry, chilly wind. It was so relaxing. I roamed the ship a bit and went back to my room, where I found a lovely cheese plate waiting for me. 


Too bad they didn’t include a glass of wine with that! Well, I went out and found my own. I brought it back to the room and had some of it and some of the cheese on my balcony. It was so nice, I stayed for a bit more time in the sun, which sort of doubled as another nap. Yes! 

It was then time for the 4:00 bingo game, which I found out was also canceled. However, this time, they were going to refund the cost of the cards and play one game for a prize. That was about 20 minutes of unbridled fun until someone won! 😜

I went back to the room, showered again, and slowly made my way to dinner by about 5:30. I went to Alizar, which is the other main dining room on the ship. It is smaller, and it is also the one where you can wear shorts instead having to wear pants. Interestingly, I had a better experience in Alizar. In the past, I’ve had better experiences in the dining room that was more formal. Oh well! The server and other staff were friendlier, and the meal was generally paced better. Everything was very good, from the spring roll and papaya salad, the butternut squash soup (odd combination, I know), and the seafood hot pot entree. 


Just to clarify, I generally think cruise ship is good, but would not say it is anything to write home about. I’m sure that will change for me if/when I’m able to go on a fancier cruise line. 

One of the bad singers. 👎🏼
 
I went from the bad singer to this show, which was quite fun and woke me up!
And that’s how the day ended. By the way, this was taken at 10:10 pm!

Copenhagen/København, Torvehallerne, & Alpha Waves

 Well, I seem to be on a alternation of sleep patterns. I think the constant rocking of the ship lulled me to sleep rather than keeping me awake. That’s very fortunate, considering that there would be nowhere to nap today! I had already bought yogurt and blueberries in Oslo, so I just needed to go up to deck 7 for some coffee. I got my coffee and had my light breakfast in my room. Since the ship was scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen (København) at 9:45, I had plenty of time to leisurely prepare for my day, which is ideal. I was on the 7th deck using wifi as I noticed we were docking, so I went down to my room to gather my things.

  

It was a nice journey there. I was by a canal, I suppose and crossed over a beautiful wooden bridge with a grand gate. On the map, I had noticed something in the shape of a star, and that was where I was. This was some sort of old fortress. On the map, I also saw that I was very close to the Little Mermaid, but I couldn’t get there because of the water surrounding this star-shaped fortress, so I used some of my cellular data to get walking directions. I had to cross that bridge again and get up onto another bridge. One I did that, it was pretty easy to get there.

    On a side note, people were cutting the grass on one of the hills of the fortress. In this photo, you can see a man in a golf cart sort of vehicle. What you can’t see as well is the lawn mower that he apparently is controlling by remote control. I want one!

When I arrived, I saw several tour buses parked there—all to see this little statue. Apparently the statue was given to the city of Copenhagen by the man who owned Carlsberg Brewing Company. I actually didn’t realize until then that “The Little Mermaid” is by Hans Christian Anderson, who is Danish. For some reason, I thought it was a Czech folk tale, because of the opera, “Rusalka.” Sounds like I need to do some research.

It really is a beautiful statue that sits on a rock in the water, and the view of the city behind it is lovely. Someone was selling figurines near the statue for 5 Euros or $10. Maybe she hasn’t heard, but the dollar is currently almost equal to the Euro!

  

According to the map, it would be a pretty straight shot into the center of town, so I thought I would head that way and decide on my next stop along the way. After passing a beautiful Episcopal church and a grand fountain, I was on a busy city street. One of the things I passed was a bakery. Denmark is known for Danishes, right!??! I think the one on the bottom is the authentic “Danish.” I resisted the temptation.

     

I made it to the place where the Copenhagen Canal Tour leaves, but since I just missed one leaving, I decided to find something else to do. I was near The National Museum. Since it was free, I wanted thought it would be a good way to learn something about Danish culture. The inside is particularly Scandinavian looking, and the exhibits were quite nice. They had exhibits ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. I decided to spend most of my time in an exhibit of Danish History from the 17th century to 2000. I sort of rushed through it, but there were some very interesting things about national history and everyday life and culture throughout the ages. Notice the way the piano is made. Also, I thought the living room from the 1960s was particularly interesting.

          

Lunch was calling, and I was very exited to go to Torvehallerne KBH (KøBenHavn), which I had read was a food hall sort of place with many different vendors. Whenever I hear that one of these places exists, I make a point to visit. Of course, there’s now Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York, but there’s also a bit food hall in Cork, Ireland and the place in London (can’t think of the name right now). I’m seriously like a kid in a candy store in these places, and although tourists like to visit them, they are really places for the locals to buy food and other goods to take home or to eat on their lunch hour. Just before I got there, I saw The Bronx Restaurant, which was a burger joint.

Tovehallerne was fantastic. It consists of two long, glass buildings full of vendors with outdoor vendors between the two buildings. Of course, there were MANY choices for what I could eat for lunch. Since seafood is a big deal in this part of the world, I went with that. The thing I got was called some sort of a tapas plate and was definitely fusion. The seaweed salad is Japanese, of course, but there were two different types of shrimp, some seared tuna, a crab salad (I think), a fish cake (something Danish, I believe), and an odd egg & salmon bake thing. Some people may be a bit nauseated at all of this right now, but I loved all of it!

      

In some of my walking around the market, I came across a sample of some sort of sausage, which led to a man telling me all about his cows while showing me something on the computer screen. He was so enthusiastically speaking about them in Danish that I couldn’t even tell him that I didn’t speak his language. I assumed that he was saying they are grass fed and live in green pastures, but it took him a LOT of words to say that. I just smiled and nodded (almost laughing), and when he finally paused, I said, “thank you” and walked away quickly!

After a bit more walking around, I noticed a place called Palæo. That looks suspiciously like “paleo,” so I checked out the menu. It actually is a paleo fast food place. That’s so brilliant—another million dollar idea for the US! Since I’d already eaten lunch, I couldn’t exactly eat lunch again. However, they did have some paleo desserts!!! I had their amazing chocolate cake, and I’m so glad I did!

I spent quite a bit of time at Tovehallerne and had seen a large part of Copenhagen, so I planned to take a leisurely stroll back to the boat. Part of the walk was through a large park (like Central Park), which included their botanical garden. Judging from the building and the grounds, I gather that it would have been more impressive than Oslo’s botanical garden. I also passed the city art museum—an enormous building—along with plenty of other interesting buildings, statues, and an old windmill! I passed a grocery store very close to the ship terminal and fortunately realized that I had not bought anything for breakfast. I got a yogurt again, 2 bottles of sparkling water, and can of sardines. I probably won’t eat the sardines tomorrow, but they’ll make great souvenir (hahaha!). One interesting thing I saw in the grocery store is Yankie bars. The sign says something like “The trip will be better with Yankie Bar.” I wonder if they are imitating an American (Yankee) candy bar.

                  

This brings me to the topic of walking. I’ve walked an average of 7.75 miles, or close to 17,000 steps, this week. On an average day in Demorest, I find it difficult to walk 3 miles, and that includes walking to work, whatever walking I do at work, and potentially a walk in the evening. It doesn’t include running on the treadmill at the gym, because my phone doesn’t record that unless I hold it in my hand as I run. Even on days when I’ve done that, they pale in comparison to this much walking. The point is that I wish it were easier to get more walking into an average day!

Boarding the ship was easy, once again. I went up to deck 11 to watch us pull away from the dock, but it was pretty cold, windy, and rainy, so I went elsewhere. Copenhagen is beautiful, but you can’t see the beauty of the city at the port as you an in Oslo. I rested a bit and spent a little time in the duty free shop. I’ve been eyeing Skagen watches for months, and I had thought I might buy one while in Denmark. I tried a few on and decided that it was a pretty good deal, although it probably wasn’t much better than I’d do buying one from Amazon. Oh well, I’ve been wanting this watch for a long time, and buying it gives me one less reason to look at my cell phone constantly. I think it was a good purchase that will last a long time.

Before I knew it, it was dinner time. The food was virtually identical as the previous night. If one didn’t eat everything offered on the first night, one might be able to eat something completely different on consecutive nights. Fortunately, I had sampled everything I wanted to sample on the first night, so I could eat a bit more efficiently this time. I had all of the same courses and actually realized that one of the desserts that I had taken a bite of the previous night was a gluten free chocolate cake. Of course, that only encouraged me to eat more of it this time.

In addition to enjoying the food, I had a very nice conversation at dinner. Another table for one was seated next to me just after I was seated. I noticed that the lady spoke English with a non-European accent. She didn’t quite sound American, though. I was hoping this might lead to some sort of conversation. She began by asking if I had been to Olso before, so I explained my journey to her. She said that her trip was part business and part pleasure and that she just wanted to visit Oslo while she was in the vicinity. I told her about some of the things I had done in Oslo, including telling here about going to the opera and that I’m a singer & voice teacher, and she told me that she is from British Columbia. Eventually, I found out that she works for a company that does 7-day Alpha Brain Wave Training. I had a slight clue of what that might mean, but it definitely required explanation. She explained that there is some sort of technology that gives people feedback, and in this intense 7-day process, people come out as new and improved versions of themselves. I found out that the doctor who developed it and started the company is called James Hardt, so I will certainly look this up online just to have a better understanding of it. I’m intrigued! Not that I want to do it necessarily, but I find it fascinating. After this very interesting conversation, I got a small cup of ice cream to go, and we introduced ourselves. Her name is Alice, and she said that she would look up my blog since I had told her that I would write about our conversation. Let me know if you read this, Alice!

I went back into the duty free shop to look at the Royal Copenhagen espresso mugs that Jane was encouraging me to buy. I’m sure they would be a wonderful thing to have for the rest of my life, but I think the watch purchase is the better choice for me right now. I picked up a brochure on Bygdøy Peninsula in Oslo, which is where I plan to spend part of the day tomorrow and see the Viking Ship Museum and Norsk Folkemuseum.

No trips to the Christopher Columbus Club tonight, where the band plays, or to the other place where the piano guy was playing. I found a table on Deck 7 to catch up on my writing for the day. My last thought for the day is that, compared to Norway, the Danish people, language, and culture (from a one day experience) are a bit closer to German. Maybe someone out there has experience with this and can correct me or confirm my thought.