Continuing our visit to London, we left Windsor and went to Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and walked the beautiful grounds.
After a break at the hotel, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and strolled Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park.
The next morning we had breakfast across from Embassy Row in Kensington Gardens, then took the Kensington Palace tour. Following this, we made our way to Westminster Pier to catch a river cruise on Thames, which wound its way past The Eye, Globe Theater, the Tower Bridge, and on to Greenwich.
With the great weather, Greenwich Park was full of people playing and relaxing in the grass. We made our way up the hill and took our turns straddling the Prime Meridian and then walking through the Flamsteed House. While there I make my second observatory visit on this trip (first being The Round Tower in Copenhagen), and see the Great Equatorial Telescope at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
the business end of the 38″ Great Equatorial Telescope in Greenwich
The last stop on our visit to Europe was London. The flight from Copenhagen was fine, except for our checked bag which decided to take an extra ½ day to get there. We weren’t worried about it, but the umbrella inside it would have been nice to have on the one day of drizzle in our entire time in London!
Our hotel was across from Hyde Park, between Paddington Station and Notting Hill, not far from Kensington Gardens. It took us a bit to find our way to the Underground (“Mind the gap!”) from the Paddington Express from Heathrow, but we found the Underground very manageable, particularly with our reloadable Oyster Cards. After getting situated in our hotel room, we walked a bit and then had a quiet Italian meal at De Amicis.
On our rainy day, we made our way over to the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, followed by the British Museum. We had a great lunch at the Museum Tavern (a “proper” pub), then wrapped up the day walking around Buckingham Palace grounds and St. James Park.
the Museum Tavern, our table at the end of the bar
Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace
I couldn’t help but reference the classic musical number that we used to sing in grade school; now we saw what all the fuss was about.
Our train left Sweden and crossed into Copenhagen before lunch. We exited the train station right across the street from Tivoli Park, and after picking up our Copenhagen Card, we made our way over to our hotel near the water on Sankt Annæ Plads.
We picked up some ready-to-go food from a shop and had a picnic on a bench in King’s Garden, then admired the wide array of paintings on display in the National Gallery of Denmark.
We took the round about route to our hotel, swinging by the Little Mermaid statue (of course), and also happening upon the Sakura Festival (Japanese cherry blossoms) right nearby, where all the Yoshino Cherry trees were in full bloom — not all that much later than the tree in front of our house back home.
the little mermaid
More than one of my family told me that I should contact Hartwig and Barbara before our trip and let them know we would be in Copenhagen (Hartwig is an older brother of an exchange student from Germany who stayed with my family about the time I left for my first job out of college). He and his wife replied that they would love to invite us over for dinner, so we caught our breath back at the hotel until the time he would pick us up and drive us to their nice home just to the north. They served a wonderful meal, and we spent hours visiting, until we pointed out that it was getting late and tomorrow was a work day — not for us! They were excellent ambassadors for their country, and we were glad we could meet them.
As we got to the west side of Trelleborg and drove to the golf course clubhouse, waiting inside to meet us were nine cousins and spouses, plus two more who joined us later!
Mo and I were pleasantly surprised (and a bit overwhelmed) and I think Kerstin was as well. Our cousin Ulf had apparently spread the word; in addition to the great turnout, the golf course even had the US flag flying out front for us alongside the Swedish flag! We got acquainted over a pleasant buffet meal and worked on learning everyone’s names.
First destination on our European trip was to the home of my ancestors, southern Sweden. To get there, we picked up Scandinavian Airlines in Newark, NJ on our way to Copenhagen. By far, the biggest hurdle to our trip was the transatlantic flights. While the food was good and there were plenty of entertainment options, the optimum goal is to get sleep on the way there, and that really wasn’t happening much.
It was great to see familiar faces at the airport, with cousin Kerstin and Lennart picking us up and taking us across the border and on to their lake home near Hässleholm, Sweden. They had a very nice guest suite built above their garage that was our home base while there. While we tried to adapt to the new timezone, we took a little day trip to see some local sights. We first saw their wonderful decorative old Church of Mary in Brönnestad, then had an enjoyable time with Kerstin’s mother Hulda (with coffee and some delightful sweets). Following our visit, our first stop was Trollenäs Slott (“slott” being Swedish for “castle”, one of the words I learned), and the second, Hovdala Slott, was aborted due to rain turning to light hail — this was our only interruption to pleasantly cool weather while we were there. As it was we needed a nap and time to visit more anyway. And our big surprise was tomorrow.
Five years ago, we were pleased to host my cousin Kerstin’s family from Sweden for a few days. Since then, they have been (rightly) asking when we would reciprocate and visit them. This year, Mo and I decided the time was right, and we began our planning.
At the time we contacted Kerstin, we had been planning on flying in to Stockholm, but she recommended we instead fly to Copenhagen, which is much closer to them — only about an hour away. Given that, we decided to schedule in a couple days to spend in Copenhagen as well. And lastly, Mo wanted to return to London, which she had been to many years ago. This was my first trip to Europe, so it all sounded great to me. We even made a reservation for Mo’s birthday meal when we would be in London.
We got each other large travel backpacks, and with these and a small suitcase we were hoping to travel as light as possible. We also found a good international power adapter. Mo had researched our trip fairly well, and we knew ahead of time what discount passes to pick up and had a strong list of sights to try to see. I also made sure to load up a flash drive with a slew of family tree info and photos to bring along.
Prior to leaving, I had more than one in my family tell me to contact Hartwig and his wife Barbara in Copenhagen and try to visit with them while there. In addition, I realized I had a college buddy living in London, and worked at possibly getting together with him while we were there, too. You know it’s becoming a smaller world when you know of someone in each foreign country!
On April 25th, we left for Europe by way of a SAS connection in Newark. Next: Sweden