Alaska

DSC_0069 copy

I struggled over a title for this post because (as you will see), how on earth do you describe a trip to Alaska? There are hardly words to set the scene for the beauty and amazing display of nature every time you open your eyes. In fact, I only went through pictures up to the morning of day 3 because I had already marked 20 to share.

Of all the places I’ve traveled, and there have been MANY, a few take top marks like the incredible stark colors of the Scottish Highlands, or the lush greens of the Ireland countryside. Alaska might have top billing. Maybe because it’s fresh in my mind (even though it was already a month ago), I’ve never seen anything so pure and beautiful.

How do you describe that?? We hadn’t even gotten off the ship yet, these were all just things we went by on the our way to our first port stop in Skagway. It’s kind of mind-boggling to see glaciers and icebergs and the stunning colors.

DSC_0164 copyDSC_0184 copy

DSC_0198 copy

Chick giving her dad the helicopter front seat side-eye

DSC_0206 copyDSC_0215 copyDSC_0217 copy

Thank you Temsco Helicopter Tours for helping me conquer some fears. Helicopter: check. Done IT. Walked on a glacier: Done THAT. Seriously one of the best days ever, and 100% worth every penny. (Thanks to The Husband for making me do it.)

DSC_0122 copy

Love you Pluto, but wow was it COLD!

DSC_0229 copyDSC_0234 copyDSC_0244 copyDSC_0247 copyDSC_0250 copy

That only takes us to our first stop. Two more to come (a cute little town, big fishing vessels, and SEAPLANES!)

Weekend in Oslo

It’s funny how for as much as I travel and see all these places, I don’t seem to blog about them. We were away 3 of the last 4 weekends. Glasgow, Ireland (from Dublin to Galway), and last weekend Oslo. I love traveling. I think it was the main reason I wanted to move to Europe again, so we could see so many different cities. When we were in Germany for four years, I don’t think we traveled as much as we have the last two years living in London. Part of that is because it was The Husband’s job to {literally} travel the world every week for work. By the time the weekend came, he just wanted to be a homebody and maybe wander as far Cologne (25 minutes). We also had 1, then 2 children, 5 and under. Traveling with that set is not exactly the easiest. I really like the fact that I’m no longer the one schlepping their stuff in my bag.

If they want to bring it, they’re carrying it.

Nordic countries have always interested me. Initially, I thought we’d go to Sweden. I’m a big fan of several Swedish things – Wallander, and Volvo – but we ended up choosing Norway instead.

DSC_0086DSC_0098DSC_0113

If I’m honest, Norway looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest/Puget Sound. We went on a cruise of the fjords, and all I kept thinking of was how much it looks like driving from our house in Snoqualmie to downtown Seattle (25 minutes). You cross by the water at Mercer Island, and across the floating bridge. It looks extremely similar.

Either way, no matter where it is or what it looks like, it’s beautiful. We could not have had better weather, 77 F and sunny. We even broke out the sunblock. I continued my love of boats {that would be boats that aren’t ferries on the ocean making me seasick} and pretty much filled the camera with sailboat pictures.

I’ve been sailing exactly twice in my life, when I was about 10, and my best friends dad took us out on his boat.

Loved. It.

And I also have been reading the Wynns blog, Gone With The Wynns, for years. Since they recently completed their first year living full time on their catamaran, I’m obsessed with sailboats {just ask the husband who has caught me numerous times trolling ‘boats for sale’ websites.}

We aren’t getting a sailboat. Kayaks, YES. Sailboats, NO. {MEGA SAD FACE} I have pointed out to the husband many times we live very, very close to the water, and boats aren’t that expensive, and I basically grew up on the water in my parents powerboat.

He then points out how many ferries I’ve turned green on/throwing-up-while-riding-on. Point taken, but yes, crush a girls dreams, ya know? {maybe a boat is my mid-life crisis?}

Anyway, Norway, is beautiful. These little houses are called bath houses and were originally placed at the water so people could swim etc without being seen. They were super cute.

fullsizeoutput_41eDSC_0106DSC_0107fullsizeoutput_41c

One of the things I couldn’t stop admiring is the architecture of Norwegian homes. I love the sloped roofs, the colors, there’s just something wonderful about them.

fullsizeoutput_420fullsizeoutput_41ffullsizeoutput_417fullsizeoutput_416

There are also plenty of modern buildings in Oslo, like the opera house (where you can literally walk all over it, the roof, the sides, etc.).

fullsizeoutput_418DSC_0078DSC_0080DSC_0081

We also went to the Fram Arctic Exploration Museum, Maritime Museum, and Folk Museum (I can’t remember the actual name but they had buildings from the 1300-1990 – some recreated, some original, and told the story of Norway’s people, which was interesting even if a lot of the buildings were closed for repair).

On Saturday we had the chance to see a lot of people dressed in traditional folk dress {this is commonly done for ceremonies; which I think is wonderful}. I only managed phone pictures because I didn’t want to be obvious about it, but seeing everyone from little babies to adults in folk dress was beautiful.

IMG_0507

At the Oslo city hall they were having a Humanistik Navnefest {a Humanist naming ceremony, you can read more about Humanisism here.  I find it really interesting, and took the ‘are you humanist quiz’ and scored 100%!} so there were many, many people dressed this same way. It made me wish America had something similar.

If you ever get the chance to visit Norway, and specifically Oslo, you definitely should. Just pack for every kind of weather and be prepared for the cost. It is exceedingly expensive (2 coffees and 2 slices of cake and 2 ice creams one afternoon was the equivalent of £68), but it is well worth it for the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the place. It is potentially on my top 5 places I’ve ever been, even if I was there for my 40th birthday.

All the things: birthdays & leaving London

I can hardly believe it but several things are taking place in the next 35! days that are pretty momentous in my life.

Item 1. My youngest turns 11. I could look at it like she’s growing up, wah!, or she’s pretty much in teenager mode, and it’s only 7 more years till I can make her move out. It really depends on the day and the attitude.

DSC_0094

On top of the Cliffs of Mohr, Ireland

Item 2. I’m turning 40 in ten days. I’ve generally been fine with this, age is just a number, yada yada, and I’ve got far more important things going on right now to worry about it (see next item). That is until a friend who is giving a birthday dinner for me wrote in the email Andrea’s 40th Birthday Celebration, then I started freaking out a bit.

40 candles birthday cake 5265

But in almost 40 years I have lived in 3 countries and 6 US states, visited 18 countries (so far), and I have seen so many wonderful things I couldn’t even begin to describe them all. That’s not too bad considering most of the people I went to high school with still live in the town where I grew up. I caught the adventure bug early on and I think I’ve made the most of it.

Item 3. We are moving back to the US in 35 days and saying cheerio to London. I can’t even describe how happy I am about that. It isn’t that London has been the worst place I’ve ever lived (middle of nowhere central Kentucky has that honor), but would I choose to do it again? No, probably not. It is not lost on me that my dearest wish as a naive 18 year old was to live in a thriving city (the goal was NYC). I can now say that I have lived in a city, and the experience did not really agree with me. London is loud, dirty, crowded,  my neighbors are obnoxious, and I am very much looking forward to closing the door on this experience.

IMG_2796

Taken June 27, 2015, our first weekend in London

IMG_2154

from the bus

I will miss the art museums, Kew Gardens (which you’ll note isn’t technically IN the city), and even the tube. It is sometimes nice to get to a destination while watching a movie on your phone, or reading a book, instead of driving.

But mostly I miss the quiet solitude of our US home, with it’s deer walking down the street, and nothing but mountains and evergreen trees out the window.

DSC_0008DSC_0045

DSC_0018IMG_0010

Item 4. We are traveling to two different countries in the next two weeks (Scotland and Norway). I am quite excited about both. In Glasgow we will be visiting our tiny little 2 square feet of land that legal allows us to use the titles Lord and Lady. And no, I’m not joking. It’s part of this scheme (and there are other programs like it) used as a way to raise money to restore the castle on the grounds. I bought us the titles for our anniversary this year. They came with full fancy certificates with wax seals and everything. I’ve already started changing all my official documents to

LADY ANDREA OF CHAOL GHLEANN

It does have a nice ring to it (even if I have no idea how to pronounce it). The Husband has asked the children to call him Lord Father. So far, they aren’t complying. The cool part is that we are allowed to use them on legal documents. Something about that makes me happy.

It’s the little things.

The next 35 days will be so very, very busy. Saying goodbye to favorite places like Kew, the Italian restaurant in Notting Hill, and the Royal Academy. Making sure everything in the house has a designation for shipping: SEA, AIR, or SUITCASE. Selling off electronics, and storage closets; donating clothes, and books to the local charity shop. Making sure every single piece of paper you need for moving four people and a dog across two countries is filled out and stamped and sorted in triplicate.

35 days to go.

 

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

I remember way, way, way back when blogging was still an relatively unknown thing. I am not saying I started a trend or anything close to that, but many incarnations ago, back in 2005 (okay, wow, that was ten years ago. Where.Does.The.Time.Go?) I started a blog to capture daily life as we moved to Germany, adopted a baby, traveled a lot, spoke a little, and basically discovered the absolute joy that comes from living in another culture. There have been many versions, and names, and stops and starts, and it has all come full circle to this blog. Which I started because we are about to move to London. In case you haven’t been reading along this whole time, and don’t already know that.

In SIX days I leave to fly to London and see The Husband (and his temporary digs), eat fish and chips, find a flat to live in, drink beer, take a tour of the kids kick-ass international school, and maybe pick up a souvenir or two or three. I only have 7 very short days to basically discover why I am so excited to move to London.

My motto at birth should have been Have Suitcase; Will Travel.

TommyHIlfigerTote

Tommy HIlfiger Signature Weekend Tote

What I am trying to do this week (in addition to readying the house top to bottom for a rental showing on Friday, and my mil ‘s arrival), is pick out a wardrobe for London. I was there in July 2007 for a weekend.  All I remember is it was hot, and it rained, but I loved it. There’s a tricky side to packing for this trip; I want to look sophisticated and put together but also realistic as my mode of transportation will be the tube and my own two feet. The problem is I want to pack more than 7 days worth of clothes, because I have more than 7 days worth of things I want to wear.

There will likely be rain, and stairs. There will definitely be several days with a letting agent/relocation specialist, and an afternoon with the assistant headmaster of the school.

I must look put-the-heck-together. Not my usual casual jeans and cute sweater routine. I’ve been told London can be dressier than Seattle.

Everything is dressier than Seattle which I’ve lamented on before (somewhere). So nice shoes, a dress, maybe a skirt or two for the days when I am not just trying to stay awake and un-jetlagged at The Husband’s apartment. Or in the pub.

I’ve been promised The Pub. And I want to be awake to see The Pub. I’m sure I’ll be geekily Instagraming the entire trip.

The children will not be accompanying me (thanks to grandma for the assist!), and I definitely think something a little bit nicer is in order. Let’s hope The Husband is up for wearing his nice jeans. Since he gets to wear jeans everyday at work (talk about his dream job), I’m thinking he should pull out his ‘school interview’ pants* this week.

Who knows? We might end up in front of the queen (as The Husband did this past weekend as the queen drove right by him, and waved.) The royal baby might arrive while I’m there. And who knows? The Duchess of Cambridge would certainly deserve the (almost temporary) citizens of the country to be wearing lovely clothes to celebrate her child’s arrival.

IMG_2055

I’ll do anything to justify packing heels and a dress. Or two. Or maybe some wedges and a skirt. Definitely a blazer. Or two.

Maybe I need more than one handbag?! And something to put my huge camera in while out and about?!

Maybe I need more than one suitcase while I’m at it.

*pants literally bought for when he went round to look at schools in January. Considering the schools he looked at are chock full of parents driving Volvo’s and Range Rover’s we figured a nicer than jeans pair of pants were in order. We were right.

City List

I recently read a post over at Flying House about Paris, or rather cute Parisian style clothes. We’ve been to Paris, numerous times while we lived in Germany, and I had visited when I was in high school with my French class.

J’adore Paris!

Times about ten billion.

I love the French. I know a lot of people think they are snobbish (my husband is not a big fan of the French), and it’s possible they are, but I’ve always had a such a lovely time in France. Je parle francias un petite peu. If you try to speak French, that snobbish thing eases up immeasurably. How can you not love sitting on the sidewalk at a cafe, sipping espresso, eating a croissant, and watching the world go by?

To me that is a dream come true. I would, and could do that every.single.day. and never get tired of it. My bank account would get tired long before I would.

As I was reading today, I started thinking about where I’ve been, and where I still want to go. We’ve been working on a list of places we want to visit during our two years in London. Some are repeats. They say the majority of people vacation someplace they’ve already been. And that’s incredibly sad, but if you think about someplace you’d want to go for a relaxing vacation, you do tend to think about a place where you’ve already had that experience. I know I’d go back to Paris, back to Maui, back to Milan.

When you list out the places you’ve been, and the places you want to go, it gives you a goal to strive towards. My goals include a lot of frequent flier miles.

Have Been:

Paris, Milan, Venice, Nice, Monaco, Arles, London, Brussels, Lisse, Taipei, Berlin, Bonn and surrounding areas (obviously since I lived there for nearly 4 years), Aachen, Bermuda, Mexico, Luxembourg, Kerry, Dingle (and others around Ireland)

I know there are more but I can’t seem to remember them (it is a Monday…)

Have To:

Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Sydney, Pisa, Tuscany, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, various locations around the English countryside and sea, Portugal, Barcelona, Prague, Tokyo, Rome, Tahiti

There are other places, but I think that covers my bucket list. I’ve been asked, as we are about to begin living in our third country, if I would live somewhere else abroad after London. I’d have to say yes, I would. There’s so much to see and do, and so much adventure out there. If you don’t do it now, then when? There will always be something that stops you if you spend to long thinking about it.

So, don’t think! Just do!