Greetings from Sweden!

This year’s vacation was in Europe – Sweden, Denmark, Hamburg, England, and France – then a trans-Atlantic crossing to New York on the Queen Mary 2. That was in September and October; it’s taken me awhile to get the photos all sorted out.

It was way over-the-top, so if it turns out to by my last trip, I can say I went out on a high note. I flew from Houston to Frankfurt on a Lufthansa A380. First class. It was unbelievable. I took advantage of Lufthansa’s carbon-neutral donation program, so I didn’t feel quite as guilty.

My pod was the windows above the “f,” “t,” and “h” of Lufthansa.

From Frankfurt, it was on to Stockholm. This was my first time to Sweden. Very beautiful and the very friendly people. We stayed at the Grand Hotel, which I was told hosts the Nobel Prize winners.

The Grand Hotel, Stockholm Sweden

The first stop in Stockholm was definitely kitschy. I did not buy anything in the gift shop.

From there, it was on to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a war ship built by King Gustavus Adolphus in 1626 – 1628 for his war with Poland-Lithuania. The king directed its construction, which turned out to be a bad thing since he knew absolutely nothing about naval architecture. It turned out it was top-heavy. On its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628, it pulled away from the dock, sailed about 1,500 yards, capsized, and promptly sank to the bottom of the harbor. In the 1950s and 60s, it was raised from water and restored. It’s now a museum.

After The Vasa, I walked around the old town; very 18th and 19th century feel.

I had a great meal that I was assured was traditionally Swedish.

The next day was a tour of the Stockholm City Hall where the Nobel Prize ceremony is. It’s a modern building – 1923 – in a piazza style. It is very reminiscent of St. Mark’s in Venice.

After the city hall tour, it was on to Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the Swedish royal family. Apparently it’s not uncommon to happen upon the king walking his dog around the lake.

After Drottningholm, it was on to the city of Uppsala. Uppsala University is the oldest in Scandinavia, founded in 1477.

The Uppsala Ikea. Yes, they actually have Ikeas in Sweden.

On the way back to Stockholm, we stopped at a runestone from the late Viking period. This is an actual stone that has been stored.

Viking Runestone

The next day, it was on to Göteborg (Gothenburg), home of Volvo. It was a quick city tour.

I particularly liked the sculpture dedicated to ending gun violence.

Anti-Gun Violence Sculpture

I really enjoyed the Göteborg botanical gardens.

It happened to be a “Climate Strike” protest, spurred by the movement started by Greta Thunberg.

Global Warming Protest

The tour ended with the Masthuggskyrkan, a church built in 1914. It has a very unique architectural style called “National Romantic.” It was certainly the most unique Lutheran church I’ve ever been in. Gothenburg has a large sailing history, which the church recognizes.

Masthuggskyrkan Ship

This macabre little vignette was in the corner where they do the children’s sermon.

Just plain odd.

After Göteborg, it’s on to Denmark.

Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!

I had an absolutely off-the-hook time at an Oktoberfest yesterday!

Pretzel on bavarian napkin

Brezel und Bier – Die besten Freunde!

Die Speisekarte was:

  • Märzenbier and Brezel
  • Wine:  Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Emile, 2009 (the best white I have ever had)
  • Rotkohl (the best red cabbage I have ever had, either in or out of Germany)
  • Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings)
  • Spätzle (homemade)
  • Münchner Bratwurst

Bratwurst-Oktoberfest

Lots of laughing, singing, dancing, and toasts to die Gemütlichkeit!

And a new-found favorite German song – ‘Die Da?!’ by Die Fantastischen Vier.

Greetings from Pike County, Illinois!

This weekend, I went to visit my sister and her family.  They live in O’Fallon, Illinois.  While I was there, I decided to take a day trip to Pike County, Illinois, where my Cadwell ancestors lived from about 1830 – 1846, when they came to Navarro County, Texas.

Pike County is only about 100 miles northwest of O’Fallon through rural southern Illinois – a very nice drive.

 

 

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Steeple – Bethany Methodist Episcopal Chapel, Pike County, Illinois

Daniel Cadwell and his family settled in Griggsville, Illinois about 1830.  Daniel operated the first trading post in the area.  The original building was a log cabin; over the years, it’s modernized.

Griggsville Illinois

Griggsville, Pike County, Illinois

 

Daniel Cadwell Trading Post

Site of Daniel Cadwell’s Original Trading Post – Griggsville, Pike County, Illinois

And then there were very interesting barns.

 

Barn - Pike County Illinois

Barn – Pike County, Illinois

 

 

 

Barn - Scott County Illinois

Barn – Scott County, Illinois

 

 

 

 

Greetings from Charleston, South Carolina!

So this is a way late post…  I went to a Department of Labor Conference in Charleston, South Carolina in early March.  I’ve just been swamped with legislative session and haven’t gotten around to posting.

It was a very quick trip in-and-out of Charleston and only had about three hours to walk around, but the weather was fantastic.  There are some great cemeteries there.

 

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A church cemetery with mossy trees

 

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Late 17th Century Gravestone

 

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Another Gravestone

 

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One of Many Steeples

 

Azaleas

Azaleas at Their Peak

 

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Window Box on a Colonial House

 

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Colonial House

 

Confederate Monument

Fort Sumter Monument

 

Fire House

Outside a Fire House

 

Greetings from Scotland! (Part the Last -Glasgow and the South)

So the first stop on the last day of the Scotland sojourn was a boat trip on Loch Katrine, beginning and ending at Stronachlachar.  It was supposed to be aboard a famous steamship, ‘Sir Walter Scott,’ but the propeller fell off and we had to go on another boat. It was two hours roundtrip on the Loch; a clear day, but windy and freezing cold.   The most interesting part of the boat ride was watching a group of day trippers from Glasgow.  A fun, motley crew who I intellectually knew were speaking English, but it sure didn’t sound like it.

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Stronachlachar Pier

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Loch Katrine Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Loch Katrine Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Loch Katrine, it was on to Rosslyn Chapel, in Roslin, Midlothian.  I’d been looking forward to this visit.  The chapel was featured in ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ and is famous for its connection to the Knights Templar, the Masons, and possibly the resting place of the Holy Grail.  I found the medieval architecture and decorations stunning.  There is so much to see it’s almost overwhelming.

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Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Gargoyle – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Architectural Urn – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Doorway – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Rosslyn, it was on to Melrose Abbey, the final destination of our trip.  Melrose Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in Scotland and is famous as the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce.  Another medieval architectural masterpiece.

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Water Spout – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Graveyard – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Gargoyle – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Melrose, it was on to Glasgow and our last Scottish hotel, Blythswood Square.  I don’t have any photos of Glasgow; we arrive after dark and it’s not really the most picturesque place in the world.

The following day, we started our trip home – Glasgow to Dublin, Dublin to Dulles, and Dulles to Austin.  The transatlantic flight was on Aer Lingus, so it was kind of like a little trip to Ireland thrown in!

Greetings from Scotland (Part 3 – Isle of Skye and Glencoe)

So after Inverness, the next destination was the über-tourist mecca in Scotland, Loch Ness.  We started the day at Urquhart Castle, which is about as picturesque as it gets. The entrance/visitors center is extremely well situated into the landscape; when you get to the castle, the buildings and the parking lot are completely camouflaged.

 

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Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

 

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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

After Urquhart Castle, we drove counterclockwise around the loch – most people go the other way – until we ended up on the Isle of Skye for our Fairy Pools hike.  This was another nail-biting drive on what amounted to a cart track going up the side of a mountain.  And while the weather started out fine in Inverness and around Lock Ness, the moment we pulled into the Fairy Pools hike parking lot, the rain started.  Coupled with the 30 mile-per-hour gale, it was like straight-line freezing rain right in your face. Most people were fleeing, but we were among the foolhardy (insane) souls that kept trudging on.  (We passed a girl in a wedding dress and a couple who were skinny dipping; such is the apparent allure of the Fairy Pools…)

 

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Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

 

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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

After the hike, we were completely soaked.  There is absolutely nothing worse than cold, soaking wet jeans.

After the Fairy Pools, it was on to Dun Scaith Castle.  Another nail-biter, this time on a sheep path.  And once you got there, you were greeted by a pile of rocks.

 

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A sheep by the ‘road’ – Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

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Some cows – Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016.

After the drive through the pasture, we went to our hotel, Kinloch Lodge.  Greeted with champagne by the fire in the drawing room, it was a nice way to end the afternoon.  (I had a whiskey here – the very definition of ‘fire water.’  My throat’s still burning.)  Dinner was fantastic; a Michelin-starred restaurant essentially in the middle of nowhere.

 

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Loch na Dal, Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 22 September 2016

After leaving Kinloch, the next stop was Eilean Donan Castle.  It’s supposed to be one of the finest castles of its type in Scotland, but quite honestly, it was way too touristy for my taste.  We had to wait 3o minutes past opening time while a commercial was being filmed.  By that time, the tourist hordes had descended. Too many people…

 

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – 22 September 2016

After the castle was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip – the Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct.  It was a nice little hike to one of the quintessential scenes from the ‘Harry Potter’ films.

 

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Waiting for the ‘Hogwarts Express’ – Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland – 22 September 2016

Next, it was on to hiking on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on the British Isles, but there had been a landslide on the route we were taking, so that got scrapped.  We regrouped and did some hiking in the Glencoe region, near our hotel for the evening.

 

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Glencoe Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Waterfall – Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

And then we arrived at Glencoe House.  This was a manor house built in the last quarter of the 19th century.  In the 1930s, the house was given to the National Health Service and converted into a hospital.  In the last few years, it was purchased and repurposed into an hotel.  This was the best place we stayed – right out of ‘Downton Abbey.’  (I highly recommend Suite 1 – it has one of the few working fire places.  Apparently, the when it was a hospital, they poured concrete down most of the chimneys.  Criminal.)  In total, the suite was three rooms – a huge dining room/drawing room; a very large bedroom; and a fantastic bath.  Suite 1 also has a private terrace with a hot tub.  There were even deer on the lawn!

There is no dining room at the hotel so all the meals are served in the suite’s private dining room.  Probably one of the best meals we had – created by Brian and Fionna Gunn who run ‘Bayleaf Catering.’  Brian was clearly passionate about what he does and it really showed.  A coursed meal – five or six, I think – in the dining room by a roaring fire.  It was decadent off the charts.

 

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Glencoe House (Suite 1 w/terrace on lower right), Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Loch Leven from Glencoe House – Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

We had to leave very early the next day – and I had to be practically dragged out of the place, but it was on to a boat ride, a potential resting place for the Holy Grail, and another ruined abbey.