Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tivoli Amusement Park in Cöpenhagen

This will not be our only post on Denmark - just a quick 2 videos of my (Brad's) favorite place in Copenhagen: Tivoli! It's been open since 1843, and much of its decor is delightfully Victorian kitsch. The place is a bit classier than any American amusement park I've been to - all the great rides are there, but they also have ballets, pantomimes, and live music in the evening. Plus, you get to look at the beauty of Copenhagen as you ride on the roller coaster!

VIDEÖ: A train ride across Sweden

Here's a quick video that I took on our train ride across Sweden today. We got on the train at around noon in Copenhagen, and got off in Stockholm just before six. It was a high-speed "X2000" train, which means that it travels at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour (and the train automatically tilts to the side to take the curves at high speed). I (Brad) loved the ride: the beautiful nordic scenery, the sensation of high speed as the train tilted, and the great coffee they served in the "Bistrocar." Emily, on the other hand, spend most of the ride with her eyes closed, desperately trying to keep her nausea in check. With a start like that, our visit to Sweden can only get better!

Here's the first portion of our trip as we flew across the sea between Denmark and Sweden!

And here's what the Swedish landscape looks like:

Our trip has begun!

This isn't a "real" post - just a quick note to all our friends and family to let you know that we've made it to Sweden safe and sound. We've traveled about a thousand miles already, all by surface transport (2 trains and one overnight ferry so far). Emily got pretty motion-sick on today's 5.5 hour high-speed train across Sweden, but other than that we've had a pretty nausea-free trip so far. If you all could pray for Emily's motion-sickness, we would really appreciate it. We didn't expect her to get sick on trains, and if this becomes a regular thing, this trip could be pretty miserable for her. We're praying that this was just a one-time thing.

We'll write a proper post as soon as we're able to upload some pictures. Thanks for following our blog!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Off we go!

I had intended on writing more posts from England. I'd had a nice little essay on London all ready in my mind, and thought about writing another one of the manor houses and country walks we've done. But, as always tends to happen on vacation, time got away from us. Although we've been here for 2 weeks, it seems like we just got here.

Today, we're heading for the city of Harwich on England's east coast, where we'll catch an overnight ferry for Denmark. From there we'll bounce from city to city across all of Europe and Asia, before finally arriving in Hong Kong on July 26. We are excited for the trip (and a little nervous), and will do our best to post pictures on our blog as we go (as often as we have internet, that is). We'd like to ask for your prayers once again, both for smooth transitions and general safety on this trip.

Let the journey begin!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oxford and home again...

After a morning of house hunting with the Condies, we decided to take advantage of some sunny weather by making an afternoon trip to the city of Oxford (a little less than half an hour away by car).

We started our day with a walking tour of the Bodleian Library in Oxford (which has been around since the 1400's). Emily and I both worked in the George Fox University Library during college, but we found this place to be slightly more impressive than our college's stacks (and people are so much better at whispering here). Apparently, part of the Harry Potter movies were shot in that library. Below is a shot of Emily in the Divinity school which is attached to the library. The tour guide told us that this room was also featured in the film.
After our very bookish tour, we took a bit of a walk around Oxford's picturesque streets, and got a few shots that I think are contenders for this year's Christmas card:
I think that Oxford has surpassed Windsor (in my mind anyway) as the "quaintest" city in England. On almost any street in the city centre, you find yourself surrounded by leaded cathedral glass windows, church spires, and middle aged men in bow ties on bicycles. It's a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

Before leaving the city, we decided to pop in at the "Eagle and Child" pub, which our guide book told us was the favorite watering hole of "The Inklings." If you're not up on your 20th century authors, "the Inklings" was a group of friends (mostly Oxford scholars and authors) that included JRR Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. The group used to meet weekly at the Eagle and Child pub, and we thought it might be fun to drop in for a bite to eat:
When we arrived, we were told that the kitchen was out of nearly all the traditional English favorites (steak & ale pie, fish & chips, etc), so we decided to take a couple of photos and then leave. (Brad ordered a half pint of ale so that he could have his photo taken in the corner of the pub where "The Inklings" used to meet - he'd like everyone to know it was a very decent cask-conditioned IPA).

Since none of us had eaten yet, we decided to take the long way home, through the town of Beaconsfield and the tiny village of "Forty Green," which claims to be home to the oldest pub in England. It's called "The Royal Standard of England," and claims to have operated since the time before the Normal invasion of England (that's over 900 years ago for those of you not up to speed on your English history). Whether or not any of these claims are actually valid was irrelevant to us. Either way, it was a very old, very eclectically decorated public house, and like most country pubs, had a solid understanding of how to deep fry a plate of food.

We split a few orders of fish and chips in a room that was at least 400 years old, then made the 15 minute drive back home. This probably won't make much sense to our European friends, but to me there's still a lot of novelty attached to old buildings. I think it's very cool that Emily's parents live so close to a restaurant that's probably been serving food since before Europeans even knew the Americas existed.

We don't have any questions for you today, but if you'd like to vote on your favorite photo for this year's Christmas card, feel free to give us your opinion. Or, if you've got a fun travel memory that you've been reminded of just now, feel free to share that too!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Day at Windsor Castle

On Tuesday, we took our first "tourist" trip in England. It was the only day of the week that was forecast as sunny, so we decided to take advantage of the very un-English weather and go see Windsor Castle. It's only about a half an hour's drive from Emily's parents' new home (in the town of "High Wycombe"). Now that they're neighbors with the Queen, I'm sure they can expect to receive invitations to all of her parties (or at least a friendly "welcome-to-the-neighborhood" barbeque).

When we arrived at the castle, we were informed by the man at the ticket office that tickets were half price that day. His reason: "The state apartments are closed today. The queen is in residence." I asked what the occasion was. Looking a little surprised at my ignorance, he peered over his glasses at me and replied: "Order of the Garter was yesterday. It was in all the papers. I'm sure you must have seen it." All I could manage in response was a half-mumbled excuse about not having received our paper that morning. As I collected our reduced-rate tickets, all I could think about was the possible origins of such a curiously named organization: "Order of the Garter." Was it something to do with the Queen's underwear? Perhaps a reference to traditional wedding reception games? The free audio self-tour provided few clues into the origin of the name. I'd be interested to hear your guesses in our comments section below.

Even though the queen's apartment was off limits, we still enjoyed wandering around the castle grounds (and I kept wondering: "is she up there in one of those windows, watching to see if I step on her geraniums?"). Our favorite parts of the day included: the lovely garden in the castle's moat, viewing the castle's enormous doll house (complete with working electricity and plumbing), and looking at the queen's collection of fine china.
You can't enjoy a trip to Windsor without the audio commentary

I think the part I enjoyed the most was our visit to St. George's Chapel (the church within the castle). While we were there, the organist was practicing. It was great fun to just sit in that beautiful old building and listen to the organ music. Those of you who attended our wedding may remember that we chose to include an organ in the musical portion (thanks, Fred McNair for playing, by the way!). It's one of my (Brad's) favorite instruments, and the pipe organ in that old stone chapel was so inspiring that I decided to take a video. It gets cut off a bit abruptly, as a member of chapel staff came and scolded me: "No pictures!"

If you'd like to comment, we'd love to hear from you. For those of you who enjoy the challenge of a writing prompt: feel free to speculate on the origins of the name "order of the garter."

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Start of Summer!

At the moment, this is what our apartment looks like:
Not only is today our last day of school, it's also one of our last days in our apartment. We are feverishly packing all of our things so that we can store them until we return at the end of July. Emily and I have both been very busy at work, but SHE has been especially busy organizing and packing away our household. I don't know what I would do without her.

In addition to the stress of moving, we also have the logistical chore of finalizing all of our travel arrangements for this summer's trip. Most of you already know where we're going, but for those of you who don't (and for those of you whose geography skills are a bit rusty), I've made a map of our travel route for this summer. Each different segment (they alternate red and black so you can see how we'll be breaking the trip up) represents an independent leg of our journey. We will visit 7 countries in total, and will cover approximately 6,700 miles during the next 6 weeks.

Here's the quick version of our itinerary (for those of you who want it, we'll be emailing out specific dates(each bullet point represents a different stop where we will spend from 2-5 days):

  • This sunday, we fly from HK to London, to spend 2 weeks with emily's family.
  • Then, we take a ferry from England to Denmark (overnight), followed by a train to Copenhagen
  • Fast train from Copenhagen to Stockholm
  • Overnight ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn, Estonia
  • Overnight ferry from Tallinn to St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Bullet train ("Sapsan" train) from St. Petersburg to Moscow
  • 3 Day Train Ride on the Trans-Siberian (sleeper car) from Moscow to Irkutsk
  • Overnight train (sleeper) to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  • Overnight train (sleeper) to Beijing, China
  • Overnight train (sleeper) to Hong Kong (arriving at the end of july, just in time for work!)
It's the most complicated journey we've ever planned, and we're a little nervous about the details all working out. If you'd like to pray with us, we are praying for safety throughout the trip, and a smooth transition from one city to the next (catching trains, negotiating language barriers, getting visas, etc).

Right now we're off to a farewell lunch with our friends and colleagues from work. We wish you all a wonderful and restful summer!