Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wind and Sea in Denmark...That's Part Two of My Thoughts on That Country

I'm continuing my fascination with Denmark, by discussing two unique spots in that country.  Now, I know that the castles and Copenhagen are great, but they are not the only places in the country to see.  First off, as I have mentioned previously, Denmark is expensive.  If you have a lot of money, you can stay in the city, shop til you drop and enjoy those expensive restaurants.  If you have no imagination, you can still have a great time in Denmark.  Don't think that you can't.  There are a whole lot of things that you can do in Copenhagen.  It has it's own city flavor.  It's not just like visiting Krakow, Prague, Budapest, Helsinki, or Stockholm.  It does have all the same kind of stuff that the others have, but only I would truly find them similar.  But, wouldn't you love to see something that you can't see elsewhere?

West of Copenhagen, very much west, is the city of Ribe.  Ribe is the oldest town in all of Denmark.  The place sits on the edge of the Wadden Sea, and was once the home of Vikings.  The town really hasn't changed all that much, save for a dyke that helps to control the floods.  What you do find in Ribe is great food, laid back atmosphere, and great little places to stay.  You get that small town feel, along with that traditional lifestyle that is part of what makes Denmark what it is today.

Around Ribe the locals are very proud of their Viking heritage and the Ribe Viking Center is there to help teach us all about the experience of being a Viking.  It wasn't all raids and pillaging, although that was definitely part of life for the Vikings.  At the center they will show you how they lived their day to day lives.  They have houses, tents, food, games, and tradesmen there to show you.  If you bring the kids they might be able to learn a little bit about using a bow, shield, or sword.  They also might get to see how they made these items.  Also in Ribe there is a Viking Museum that can show you some of the real artifacts from the Viking time.


Next to Ribe, I mean within a couple of miles, is the Wadden Sea National Park.  This is one of the largest protected marsh areas in the world.  I know what you're thinking.  I thought that it would be lame too, but it's gorgeous.  This place has extreme tides, so you can take a tour amongst the mud on one of their tractor buses, which is also largely how you get from island to island.  It is not advised that you go walking about the tidal areas if you are not completely familiar with the tide schedules in this area.  You also should not try to drive in the tidal areas unless you know what you're doing.  They will flood the flats and you will be in trouble if you are in the way.  But, as long as you do things safely, you can have a really great time.  There are quaint little villages out the way of Mando Island with windmills and  quiet little inns.  There are the bus tours that take you out into the tidal areas and from island to island.  They also go on seal watches in season.  You can go on oyster trips, or go hiking.  There are three islands associated with the national park, and on some of them are beaches as well.  There's something for everyone that loves the outdoors.  It's a beautiful place to watch the sunset too.


So, Ribe has a Viking village, Viking Museum, and churches and buildings that are over 1,000 years old.  The Wadden Sea National Park has seals, amazing tides and great tours.  The whole area is relaxed and easy to get around in.  The accommodations and the food are good.  You will have a great time in the area, and it is a great Adventure for Anyone.

So, take the time to get out of Copenhagen and see some of the wildlife.  Take a walk back in history with the people who's ancestors lived it.  I think that sometimes you can learn and have fun.  I think that there is something to be said for seeing the sea from somewhere other than a beach full of umbrellas.  It's a unique area that you don't hear much about.  I love Denmark, and I will write more about this fascinating country in coming weeks.  I hope that you will continue with me on my journey to see what else is in this little country that has so many happy residents.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Fascination With Water and Cruising On Rivers and Lakes

It's not that I don't like cruises.  I hate big giant floating amusement parks that keep you busy, but make you miss the point of traveling in the first place.  I just can't spend my time in the casino, or the club, or up on deck at the pool, or hovering over a buffet or bar.  When I travel, I want to spend all or most of my time seeing where I am.  It's who I am.  Now, does this mean that I don't like cruises?  No!

I love a good cruise.  Ferries are some of my favorite boat modes of transportation.  But, I could digress all day on the issues of ferry travel.  I decided to mention some of my favorite river, lake and harbor cruises around the country.  Maybe, if I have some time, I'll stop on this subject again and add some more exotic ones from around the world.  Let's start with Chicago.  That city is full of drawbridges and skyscrapers.  That makes for interesting scenery to start off with.  They also have some specialty tours which I've mentioned before like architecture tours and historical river tours.  It's a one of a kind place to spend some time, and the scenery is truly impressive.

Before we leave Chicago, let's talk about the Spirit Cruises.  They have them in Chicago and on the Hudson River, and many other places.  These guys normally throw in a great meal to go along with the views around the cities.  You can catch them in several cities around the country, especially Chicago.

Texas has a lot of coast, but it has the incredible San Antonio Riverwalk area, and the river cruises to enjoy them on.  It's one of the prettiest and romantic riverfront areas in the country, and the cruise is the best way to see it.


Out west in Newport Beach, CA, you can catch a gondola ride.  The canals there reminded the locals so much of Venice, Italy that they made gondolas their business as well.  It's a great way to see the city and relaxing as well.  There are also Venetian Gondola rides at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  Those Gondoliers are actually from Italy.  It's pretty cool.

If you miss the old days of paddlewheelers, you will be happy to hear that they're still all over the place.  They run up and down the Mississippi, the Ohio, the lower Colorado, the Columbia and several other rivers.  They also are found on lakes from Lake George, to Lake Michigan, to Lake Mead and beyond.  They are an iconic piece of American history and they won't fade away any time soon.

If the hop on hop off style of tour isn't your thing in Washington DC, then you should try out the Patomic River Cruises.  These guys take you around to get all the best vistas of the city.  You can catch them on the waterfront anytime during the season.

But, the thing is, whether you're in Boston going out to look at whales, or taking a harbor cruise, or riding a jet boat in Niagara Falls, the water is a great way to see stuff and have fun.  Jet boats are becoming more popular from Niagara to the Colorado, to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Wisconsin Dells.  It's great to go through the locks in Sault St. Marie.  There are houseboats for rent on several big lakes around the country including Lake Powell of northern Arizona.

So, whether you're normally inclined to take a cruise or not, there are some great idea around this country.  There are cruises of some kind on every navigable river.  There are cruises of many kinds on every large lake in every corner of the country.  They even have cruises in the desert.  They have cruises in the north.  They have them everywhere.  You can even take a glacier viewing cruise in Alaska.  It's a great way to add to a great vacation.  Hey, who doesn't love telling their tale of nearly drowning while viewing Niagra Falls from the Maid of the Mist?  It's fun.  Do it.

I could have talked all day on this one, but visit the sites and see for yourself.  They are everywhere and fun!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's Fall in New England...The Fairs Are Here!

It's my favorite time of year, and if you aren't in New England, you're missing it.  I love the fall.  I love the foliage.  I love the last rage against the machine that is the long cold winter to come.  By the way, I hear that this year is supposed to be bad.  I don't know if that will pan out, but just in case, I'm celebrating fall with some of my favorite things.

Here's my schedule:

Terryville Country Fair--August 23, 24, 25  it's over.
Goshen Fair--August 30,31, September 1  it's over.
Bethlehem Fair--September 6, 7 it's over.  It's my favorite!
Brooklyn Fair--August 23, 24, 25  it's over
Durham Fair--September 25, 26, 27, 28
Harwinton Fair--October 4, 5
Riverton Fair--October 10, 11, 12
The Big E--September 12 through 28
Jiminy Peak will be open weekends and on Columbus Day

Can't miss fall.  Can't miss all the fairs.  Get out!  Get going!  Run through a corn maze, pick some apples, go to a haunted house, or on a haunted hayride, or to Lake Compounce for the Haunted Graveyard.  It's a great season to be out.  It's a great season to take a Hudson River Cruise to look at leaves.  It's a great time to take a bus tour to Vermont.  It's all the best stuff.  Don't put it off.  Winter will be here soon!


I beautiful out there!  Enjoy!

By the way, I updated everything on my blog, so if it's looked a little shabby lately, it should all be better for a while.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My First Thoughts on Denmark

 I've looked forward to talking about Denmark for a very long time, but I'm just now getting around to it.  It's a fascinating country with so much to do and so much to learn.  Denmark is currently considered the happiest country in the world.  It's socialized lifestyle, while impossible to implement with any success in a larger country, works extraordinarily well for the Danes.  They do have one of the highest taxation levels in all of Europe, but they also have one of the highest standards of living.  What does that mean to the traveler?  For one thing, it does mean that prices might be a little high, but they don't follow the Euro like most other countries in the continent.  They still use the Danish Kroner, so make sure you look up the exchange rates for the right currency.

Denmark is famous for wind turbines.  The sea around the conglomerate of dozens of islands that make up the country is full of them.  They also have one of the more interesting bridges in the world to unite them with the rest of Europe.  Everywhere in Denmark are amazing examples of architecture and engineering.  It's one of the things that the country is known for.  They still have an international empire as well.  The Faroe Islands and Greenland are still protectorates of Denmark.  Pretty good for a small little island nation in the North Sea.


If you're looking for one of those European countries that still has a monarchy and has a whole lot of castles, then you've come to the right place.  Denmark is home to one of the world's oldest running monarchies.  They have a changing of the guard at the main palace complex every day, and it's really popular with the tourists.  The country is currently ruled by Her Majesty the Queen.

Amalienborg Castle is the main residence of the royal family headed by Queen Margrethe.  It's part of a four castle complex in Copenhagen, and only one of the fabulous castles to see around the country.  I'll cover that one in a different entry to this blog.  Irregardless, Denmark has some amazing historic sites to see.

I've taken this time to write about two theme parks in Denmark.  Theme parks are not always an adventure for anyone, but this time they are.  Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is one of them.  This place sits in Copenhagen amongst the history and the new found food culture and the architecture of the city with a beauty that is hard to match.  The gardens are hundreds of years old, the buildings are amazing, the gardens themselves are gorgeous.  You could spend all day wandering the grounds just to look.

But there's more to it than just gardens and cool looking buildings.  There's a theme park in there with roller coasters, thrill rides, amusements, boats to ride around in, great food, and in the winter time, you can come to see the Christmas lights and go ice skating.  It's the preferred spot for the locals to go and spend the day.  It's part of the happiness that the Danish folks enjoy.

One thing to remember however.  At Tivoli Gardens there is beauty all around.  That's why I see it as being for anyone.  European theme parks have been around for millennia.   There weren't always roller coasters.  In the old days, you brought your family and a picnic to spend the day here.  You went there to see the gardens and float around in a boat.  Beauty is part of the park here.  So, take time to smell the roses and don't worry about standing in line to ride the rides all day.  This is an experience.  Make sure you have the right one.

And that brings us to Legoland.  That's right.  It's one of the few things that Americans really know about Denmark.  They invented and are home to the Lego building block.  There are Legolands in other countries, but I say visit the original.  Copenhagen has one of the loveliest old waterfronts in Europe, and if you missed it while in town, it's been immortalized 150 miles away in Legoland.  Part theme park, part garden, and part Lego art museum, Legoland has something for everyone and is a great adventure for anyone.  It's the kind of place that lets your imagination run wild.


Is it real, or is it made from Legos?  That's an interesting question, and one that you will answer over and over during your visit to this park.  Legoland comes with a theme park, a water park, numerous Lego sculpture areas, places where you can build your own things, gardens, shops, restaurants, theme hotels, and so much more.  It's a one of a kind park, even thought there are a couple of others roaming around the world.  But this is the original, and you should not visit Denmark and miss it.  I found out a few years ago that the factory that you can take a tour of here is the only place that you can order regular old Lego sets from.  If you want to reach for the stars and make the kinds of things that you see in the park, then you need regular Legos, not a kit to build some star wars ship or something.  In many places throughout the USA, the only way to get that is to order it from Denmark.  I've done that, and it was worth it to my son.

You can ride stuff, make stuff, buy stuff, and experience stuff.  The best part about Legoland is that it sets your imagination on fire.  You see so many amazing things.  It sets your own wheels in motion about what you could build.  If you can dream it, you can build it with Legos.  And if you build it, they will come.  I don't know about that, but if James May can build a house out of Legos, imagine what you could do.


So, set your mind and your imagination free with a trip to Tivoli Gardens and the original Legoland.  Come to the happiest country on Earth and have the best time ever!