Sunday, September 27, 2009

End of the Summer BBQ

Our little gang of friends enjoyed what may be one of the last nice days of the summer (the summer we were cheated out of due to rain nearly every day). Joe's roof proved a great place to gather and enjoy the views, cocktails, food, and good company.
It's time to welcome Fall. My personal favorite season- sweaters, soup, and anticipating the upcoming holidays. Bring on the chilly/chili nights!

Emma turns One!!!

Happy Birthday Little Emma.
It was so fun to celebrate your first birthday with Carlos, Joe, your dads, and all your friends!
You make 12 months look so good!

US Open- Time for my Annual Sporting Event

While I usually like to leave town for three day weekends, this Labor Day I did not get far- however, a ride to the last stop on the 7 train in Queens can seem like going to a foreign country (and is often just as exhausting).
The crowded long trip was worth it. Thanks to Joe, we were able to enjoy our annual night at the US Open.
Good seats, great weather, extraordinary company. Thanks Joe!!!

Margot and Carlos enjoying their Mojitos with sugar cane

Joe: The man who makes it happen every year.

We ran into good friend Jason who was at the Open with mom.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back from the Baltics: 7 countries in 10 days

I have been back from my unbelievable trip for about three weeks now. I tried to narrow the trip down to a few details and photos... but if you know me... you know that is impossible. Warning: This post is LLLOOOONNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGggggggggg!
Following my fantastic week in Jerusalem, I flew from Tel Aviv to Copenhagen where I was to meet one of my besties Wade for a ten day Baltics cruise. I arrived a day early and was able to decompress from Israel spending a quiet evening in Copenhagen. HA! After a 30 minute power nap in my hotel, I was ready to see some sites. I had heard so much about Tivoli Garden- both from friends and in every tour guide book I read. My hotel was within walking distance of Tivoli, and as this is the ‘one site not to be missed’ I hit the park that night. Ummmm… while this was a magical little place, it was more of a small scale Lagoon (an amusement park my Utah friends are surely aware of). Admittedly, an amusement park holds little excitement when you are there alone and I am sure that had I been with friends, it would have been a different experience entirely. I did hit a show, walked around and enjoyed the landscape, and scraped my jaw off the floor at how absolutely super model gorgeous every man, woman, and child in Denmark is.

The next day I met up with Wade, Regina (another friend performing on the ship with Wade), Seth (another NY Bestie who had just finished cruising with Wade), and Seth’s boyfriend Devin. The 5 of us had a great day exploring Copenhagen. Wonderful lunch, sunny walks along the cobblestone streets and canals, snacking on pastries at a lovely bakery (where again, all the employees were super models), and just enjoying each other’s company after being away for so long. Perhaps the highlight of the day was going to Christiania. This is an independent neighborhood within Copenhagen. The residents do not pay taxes, and are not bound by the same laws and statutes that apply to the rest of the nation. It is referred to as a ‘social experiment.’ Walking around Christiania, there are tables set up with an assortment of hashish, marijuana, and other variations of your mid-range drugs. Just your typical open air drug market. The community was dirty, overrun with weeds, and crowded. However, everyone appeared very happy and content. :)

After leaving Copenhagen (and saying goodbye to Devin and Seth), the first stop on our cruise was Stockholm, Sweden. The weather was gorgeous, and we spent the day (as we spend most days) just walking around the city, stopping where we wanted, hitting the main ‘must see sites’ and enjoying each other’s company.

Wade and I are always looking for a great photo op. In Stockholm we had fun with some of the local art.

I especially enjoyed the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The Vasa was a mighty Viking ship that was designed to be the biggest and fastest ship in a new fleet. However, due to arrogance and poor planning, it was designed poorly and soon after it set sail for its maiden voyage, it sunk about 500 meters from shore in the Stockholm harbor. The ship has since been resurrected from the water and is now on display.

Other highlights of Stockholm include the Royal Palace, getting directions from a local, and, once again, gawking at the ultra beautiful people of Scandinavia.


Welcome to Helsinki- another clean, beautiful, friendly Baltic coastal town where everyone speaks English and looks like they are straight out of the pages of a fashion magazine.

We started the day walking through an open market- fresh fish, fruit, and furs. Ahhh... it’s exactly how I pictures Finland.

Wade, Regina, and I then went to the Uspenski Orthodox Church- this is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. Perhaps even more shocking than the church itself, was when we ran into a couple who recognized Wade and Regina as performers on the ship and blurted out (to Regina) “you are that BLACK SINGER on the ship.” Ummmm… or just the SINGER on the ship. Whatever. It gave us good laughing material for the rest of the cruise. :)

Next stop was the Lutheran Church. Beautiful outside- plain and simple inside.

We spent the rest of the day walking around. The architecture in Helsinki is spectacular, unfortunately, the locals use cable cars for public transportation. Great for the environment, but the wires and cables interfere with photo shots of the picturesque architecture.

While preparing for this trip, I was most excited about spending two days in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is such a fascinating city with so much history and intrigue. I was devastated when I heard that unless you have a Russian Visa, passengers were unable to leave the ship unless they went with an organized tour. Now, tours are not cheap! However, knowing I would probably not be back to St. Petersburg anytime soon, I was considering spending the $400 for the two day tour. Thanks to Wade and his super skills of persuasion, he was able to swing it so I went on the tour FOR FREE. Not only that, but we had made new friends with a couple guys from Tennessee on our first night on the ship and I was on the same bus as Dwane and Robert for the two days. In exchange, I had to help the tour guide do a head count once we were back on the bus, and assist her with keeping the group together. Done.

St. Petersburg was even more fascinating than I anticipated. From the name changes (Petrograd to Leningrad, to St. Petersburg), to the rise and fall of the Romanov Family, and currently being a center for art and politics in Europe, there was no much to see, do, and learn during my short two days. The city designers were heavily influenced by Venice and Holland, and this is easily observed by the canals running through the city and the low rise multicolored buildings throughout town.

The first stop on our tour was the Romanov Winter Palace (about 30 miles outside of the city). Gorgeous. Outrageous. Spectacular. Extravagant. Impressive. Gaudy. Exquisite. The adjectives could go on and on… but you get the point.

Once back in the city center, we went to several other cathedrals. St. Isaacs Cathedral (where nearly the entire interior is magnificent mosaics),

Peter and Paul Cathedral (where most of the Romanov Family are entombed),

Of course, we also hit the traditional Russian style Church on the Spilled Blood.

We were able to spend several hours at the Hermitage Museum- the former Summer Palace of the Romanov Family that is now the home of the National Museum. The Hermitage is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world- and home to over 3 million pieces of art (the largest collection of paintings in the world). The structure of this museum was perhaps more breathtaking than the art contained within.

After hours walking around marble floors, my feet were ready for a break. We next went on a boat tour of the canals and bridges. I really enjoyed the feel of this city and the canal tour was the perfect way to see more of the structures and architecture of the city.

There was so much more that we saw and experienced… but I can see that there is no way to include everything (and this is getting long enough). Trust that this was an amazing two days and I look forward to going back and seeing more.

Walking around Tallinn is a lot like walking around Epcot Center. It is magical and seems unreal… yet there you are. Wade and I spent the day walking around and taking A LOT of photos. We couldn’t help it. Tallinn was gorgeous and everywhere you looked there was another opportunity for a photo op.

Ran into new friends, Dwane and Robert

Sometimes we like to use local props for photo ops. We paid tribute to our ancestors and pulled a handcart- and also found what we believe is the local plastic surgery office.

Wade was exhausted after our day of walking and we found a park where Wade soon collapsed. We had given Tallinn all our strength.


In Poland, Wade, Regina, and I hopped in a cab (along with two other lovely friends of theirs from the ship) and headed to the quaint seaside town on Sopot. Our day in Sopot was the warmest yet on the cruise and it was lovely to walk along the longest wooden pier in Europe.

Naturally, we treated ourselves to the local ice-cream, self-promoted as being ‘the best ice cream in the world. I assumed this was advertising similar to that in the movie “Elf” when Will Farrell found the ‘best coffee in the world.’ Oh no- this was indeed frozen magic in a cone. Amazing! Those Poles are not joking around with their ice cream!

We enjoyed the local art…

And the famous CRAZY HOUSE.

Sopot is definitely a town I would recommend visiting. I got the sense that they do not get a lot of foreign tourists either- we were stopped a dozen times by the locals asking where we were from. Apparently, the picture taking gave us away.

It was another lovely weather day in Germany. The ship ported in the seaside town of Warnamunde, and from here, passengers had the option of going in to Berlin for the day. As the trip was three hours by train each way (leaving about 3 hours to see Berlin) I decided to stay in the area and see what Northwest Germany had to offer. I think I made the right choice.

We spent time in Warnamunde, and then took the train to another little town- Rostock. Both towns were charming and had that quintessential
“German” look and feel.

We also hit the beach. Those carefree Europeans don’t wear a whole lot of clothing on the beach. I support it.

This area is also really into shoes. Streets in both towns were lined with shoe stores. Trendy leather shoes mostly. Wade and I both treated ourselves to a new pair of foot wear (I got some darling brown leather ankle boots).

Our last stop was Helsingborg, Sweden- a short ferry ride from Elsinore, home of the famous Hamlet Castle across the bay in Denmark. Sadly, we were in Helsingborg on a Sunday, and the tours to the castle were not running. I was very disappointed. While the day turned out to be not what I was expecting, Helsingborg was still a great little town with some beautiful architecture and history.

Regina proved that the Swedes know how to make coffee (complete with a full chocolate bar on top).

Wade was looking especially cute in Sweden, so (naturally) we did a little photo shoot:

One of the highlights of Helsingborg was discovering perhaps the GAYEST statue ever created. Using props we had, we helped our oxidized copper friend become even gayer.

Before getting back on the ship for our final sail away, young girls in traditional dresses offered us flowers as we got back on the ship. The perfect ending to a perfect vacation.

Thanks to Wade and Regina for an AMAZING and unforgettable vacation. I love you Microwayne!