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Trip 2015 Travels 2015 Travels   All of my travels in 2015. 1. England - March (Waypoint 1-8) 2. Denmark ... Walter Ch (US)
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2015 Travels

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All of my travels in 2015.

1. England - March (Waypoint 1-8)
2. Denmark - March (Waypoint 9-19)
3. Ohio - July, August (Waypoint 20-26)
4. Indiana - August (Waypoint 27)
5. Illinois - August (Waypoint 28-30)
6. Minnesota - September (Waypoint 31-40)
7. Pennsylvania - November (Waypoint 41-42)

  • 17Apr 2015

    1 Returning to Europe 04/17/2015

     

    Description

    I was finally returning to Europe. I have not been there since 2011. I have not been to Europe since 2011. Since then, it has been a bunch of domestic trips, one to Canada, and a couple to Asia.

    I would make a return trip to England, and visit Denmark for the first time. I picked these countries because airfare was cheaper to these places, and meeting up with TravBuddies would tip the scale to favor these places. Each country will have their own separate blog.

    I wanted to go to a TB meetup so badly, after seeing pictures of the Bangkok meetup. And after going to the one in Kuala Lumpur, I really wanted to go to another one. So I guess this trip happened because of TB. Wow, and to think, I would always believe that trips should not be planned around TB. I guess that I am going against that belief. :)

    The day started with me going to work as usual. Then coming home early, to finish packing and have lunch with my mom. Then she gave me a ride to the train station, where I hopped on one to the airport. Being an owner of 2 cats, it was tough to leave, as I starting to find it harder to travel sometimes.

    I arrived at the airport, checked in, and went through security. It was surprisingly not crowded. Then to the gate, where I just sat and waited until it was time to board. I got on the plane, and had the aisle seat. Unfortunately, it was right by the lavatories, so at times, it really smelled badly.

    This time, I brought along my own headphones. And chose to watch "Goodfellas" for the first time ever. Very interesting movie, but unfortunately, I could not finish, as I tried to sleep as much as I can.

    I was returning to London for the first time since 2003.

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  • 18Apr 2015

    2 Arrival to See Ancient Egypt and TBers 04/18/2015 United Kingdom —

    Westminster, United Kingdom

    Description

    Landing at Heathrow, I was back in Europe. But it would get off to a rocky start. I would learn at passport control, that the United Kingdom and Europe are two separate places, according to an agent who was being a deliberate jerk. I wish I could photograph him, and caption it "watch out for this jerk". As I was going through my things to show proof that I was leaving the UK, the guy just would not shut up. I had to bite my tongue, and not talk back. In case anyone was wondering, he was some South Asian guy wearing a turban and glasses.

    I decided to take the subway, more locally known as the Tube, to the city center. Yeah, I know, I am very cheap! The time difference between the Tube and the Heathrow Express does not seem to be much. I rode the Tube to Russell Square. Then went to the Smart Russell Square Hostel. A mixed bag, as the dorm rooms are very cramped. There are only triple bunk beds, but each bed has their own curtain. Also, the WiFi is spotty, and a tripping hazard under the doorway between the 2 rows of rooms. When opening the door that swings both ways, there is some bump or step there. Maybe it’s just me being clumsy, but I nearly tripped over it twice.
    Best thing is the location, being very close to the British Museum.

    After getting settled, and realizing that I did not bring the right adapter for the UK, forgetting that it is different from continent Europe. So I had to buy one at the hostel for 5 pounds. After checking out the hostel and taking care of other things, I went out, to the Brunswick, which was an outdoor shopping mall.

    There was some kind of food festival, as I saw stalls serving a different ethnic food. I would go to the Mediterranean, and got myself a chicken paella. It was good, and my lunch. I also stopped by an Internet Cafe, as I preferred to type on a regular keyboard, as the hostel does not have a regular computer. And it can become a pain at times, to keep typing on the smart phone. And no way in hell, will I try to transfer photos on that computer, after what happened in Cambodia back in November 2014.

    Time to do some sightseeing, and I headed to the British Museum. Only a short walk, as I would go through Russell Square, a park. Then came to the back side, but did not want to enter that way. So I went around to the front, and followed the audio tour of the museum on my phone, which I downloaded earlier.

    I went inside, and would tour just the Egyptian gallery. Now why am I seeing this? Because I am such a junkie for Egyptian artifacts, having gone out of my way to see them in multiple cities. Plus I have read that this museum has one of the best collections outside of Egypt. I would see things like the Rosetta Stone, and a bunch of Egyptian statues and coffins. As if there was not enough space on the 1st floor, there was a lot more to see on the 2nd floor. Following the audio tour, I went upstairs, then back downstairs. Just amazing to look at.

    Unfortunately, I started to feel a little tired. So ended this visit, and headed back to the hostel. Luckily, it was free, so I can split my visits to this place. Once back at the hostel, I took a brief nap. When waking up, I got ready, though running behind schedule.

    I rode the Tube, to the Camden area. I went to Fifty-Five Bar, and looked around, but did not find anyone. So I had to go to a place that had WiFi, and made sure that I went to the right place. Turned out it was, and even sent messages to a few TBers on Facebook or TB itself, asking where everyone was. I went back to the bar, and looked around again, but still, no one. Then I went to ask one of the guys working there, if this was Fifty-Five Bar. He said it was, and I told him that I was looking for some people. Then he told me that there was an upstairs. I was like "huh", then "no duh". I went up the stairs, and then saw that I was at the right place, as I would see the TBers there.

    This meetup was a mix of seeing familiar faces, and meeting a bunch for the first time ever. The familiar faces were ones that I met from the KL meetup back in November 2014, thus meeting for the 2nd time. Plus meeting those that I have known online for some time, but meeting them in person for the first time. And meeting some that I never knew about before. Just goes to show how vast the TB universe is, and how the regulars are really a tiny minority.

    It seemed like by the time I arrived, almost everyone was drunk by then. We would leave Fifty-Five Bar, and head to Lock 17. A little trouble getting in, as there was a guard that checked IDs. But we went in the back door, and got in that way. This place was a lot more noisy and cramped, and the hip-hop music was so freaking loud. It was to a point where I had to scream, and get screamed at in the ear, in order to understand what was being said.

    I just had water, and lots of it, being that I don't drink alcohol at all. As a result, constant trips to the toilet. And most of the TBers danced the night away, and drinking, as the night really got crazy. To be honest, not the best place to have conversations, as my throat started to hurt from trying to talk over the music. And this hip hop music is just so freaking irritating, reminding me of living in the dorms back in college and other annoying things. Now, if this was 70's and 80's music, I would definitely feel differently. And maybe even done the Thriller dance. :)

    It was getting late, and I decided to meet up with Joe later on this trip, hopefully in a more quieter place, where I don't have to scream so much. Plus I did not want to miss the last Tube, as I was not going to make the same mistake as I did in KL. And I was so freaking hungry! Just imagine Homer Simpson without his donuts! Unfortunately, it was too late to eat, as most places were closed by then. DOH!

    I arrived back at the hostel, and went to bed. What a day, and this was only the beginning!

    ================================

    The TBers that were at the meetup, in alphabetical order by first name, along with their TB screen names, are the following: Cheryl (bashmentbabe), Claire (curious_claire), Danik, Darren (DAZMAN50), Darrin (dlim), Greg (greg1976), Hali (halilee), Jareth, Joe (joseph98), Jon (northlight), Karen (Mezmerized), Mike (Bluerose) and his wife, Nathan (NathanC), Scot (hanleyscot), Segen (fluxrope), Shehwar (shehwar), Toby (tedmorton), Walter (WalterC).

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  • 19Apr 2015

    3 Baaaa, More Museums and Walking Around 04/19/2015 United Kingdom —

    Westminster, United Kingdom

    Description

    I would not sleep so well, as the bed was really cramped, as I had my backpack there. Getting up, I would have to pack up and check out of the hostel, as I planned to leave London later that day. I ate the hostel breakfast, which was okay. Better than most, as it did have more than just toast. I did try to use the WiFi there, but it was just lousy. After packing up, I had to put my backpack in storage, which would cost me 2 pounds. Then went to the British Museum again.

    This time, I focused on the Assyrian collection, which was ancient Mesopotamia in the Middle East. Going through the Balawat Gates, which marked the beginning of the collection. I would see a bunch of panels that once hung around the palace. After seeing and following the audio tour that I downloaded, it was the ancient Greek collection. I would see the different vases, then came to the Nereid Monument and the Parthenon Galleries. These were objects that once hung at temples in Greece. After seeing them, I decided to head out. But I would come back to the British Museum for more later on.

    I did get tired along the way, and rested for a bit. And considered eating there, but museum food is just way too pricey. I left, and rode the Tube to the Westminster area. This part of the city is the more well-known part of London, with its iconic landmarks.

    I walked to the middle of Westminster Bridge, which crossed over the River Thames, and see the London Eye in the distance. The London Eye is the ferris wheel that gives nice views of the city, but I decided not to ride it, since it was so pricey. And I wanted to walk around more in the area. And of course, seeing the Houses of Parliament with its famous clock tower.

    The clock tower is often called Big Ben, but its actual name is the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is really the name of the bell inside the clock, that would chime every hour. I did not know that either, until I read about it in the guidebook that I had.

    I continued to walk around, seeing Westminster Abbey, and considered going inside it. But just did not have the time, and hated that photography was not allowed inside. So maybe some other time. I walked down a street, passing by a couple war memorials, and even a protest concerning Iran. And saw Downing Street, where the prime minister lived. Not surprisingly, that street was closed off, with armed guards in front of the gate.

    I did come to the Horse Guards Museum, where I would see a couple guards on horseback. Funny how the guards try to be absolutely still, but the horses were not. Then I walked into the Horse Guard area, to an open field, where the beach volleyball contests took place during the 2012 Olympics. Those Olympics was the 3rd time for London, the only city in the world to host the Olympics 3 times. The other 2 times were 1908 and 1948. But I digress.

    Continuing on, I came to Trafalgar Square, which is considered the center of London. There was a huge column, with the statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson on top of it. He was the one who helped England defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Hence, how the square got its name.

    Looking around the square, I would see fountains, statues of lions, National Gallery, and Shaun the Sheep. Yes, I am familiar with Shaun the Sheep, and have watched some of his cartoons. At that point, I was done with the walking tour, which I followed in a guidebook and audio tour at the same time, and undecided what to do next, as I was feeling really cold.

    I would decide to do the Victoria and Albert Museum. So I would go there, and tour around that museum, which was similar to the British Museum, with its collections from different time periods from around the world. But not a copycat of the British Museum. Some of the highlights include the Cast Courts, with replicas of Michelangelo's David and Trajan's Columns, among others. So much to see, and the best part is that it is free.

    Closing time was approaching, I obviously did not have enough time to see the place. Like the British Museum, it would take multiple visits to see the entire place. I continued looking, until I had to told that the museum was closing. A nice way of kicking me out. :)

    Leaving the museum, I had to go back to the hostel, and get my backpack. I had to do a few other things, before heading out, to the bus Station. I got to Victoria Station, and assumed the bus depot was attached to the train station, since both stations are named Victoria. But no, the bus station (or Coach Station, as it is more commonly known as) was more than a block away. So I had to run to it, and had to ask some people along the way, where it was. The Coach Station was not exactly clearly marked.

    I was able to make it there, and got on the bus, with only minutes to spare. I got on, all sweaty. The bus took off, leaving London, and heading to Bath.

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  • 19Apr 2015

    4 Where Are You, St. Chris? 04/19/2015 United Kingdom —

    Bath, United Kingdom

    Description

    The bus ride took over 3 hours, as it arrived later than scheduled, due to London traffic. No surprise there. Once I got off the bus, I looked at the reservation of the hostel that I stayed at, and much to my surprise, the address was not on there. I had a rough idea where it was, but that would be a waste of time, trying to guess.

    I went in the general direction, stopping by an internet cafe. I asked where the St. Christopher's Hostel Bath was, and the guy working there, just pointed in the general direction. Won't even give me the address. Gee, thanks for the help! NOT!

    I would ask a couple of strangers, a guy and girl, and the girl looked it up on the phone for me. She showed me the location on Google Maps, which was kind of helpful. But when going to that spot, I could not find it. So I continued up a block, until I came to a hotel. And I asked the lady working there, where it was. Then backtracked, until I came to a pub. There was a guy standing around, and when he noticed me looking around, he asked if I was looking for St. Christopher's. I said yes, and got directed into the pub. This is where I checked in, and got directed to the hostel, whose entrance was next door, and the room above the pub.

    Then it hit me, as I remember staying in a St. Christopher's Hostel in London, back in 2003. This one was also above the pub as well, assuming it was still there.

    I got to my room, which only had 3 other people. As a result, a lot more quieter and less cramped. Getting settled, I looked around the room and the hostel. The rooms are really nice, and have more space. But the downside is that there are very few outlets, and only behind some of the bunk beds. And the common area is on the floor above it.

    I showered, then hung out in the common room for a bit. I had the place to myself, which was nice. It got late, so back to the room, and went to sleep.

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  • 20Apr 2015

    5 Taking a Bath 04/20/2015 United Kingdom —

    Bath, United Kingdom

    Description

    Getting up on time, I would eat the hostel breakfast, then had to go back to the room, to pack up and check out. I also did spend some time on the WiFi, as I thought about planning a mini-meetup on Tuesday, inviting more TBers to come. Not easy to do on a phone, as the keypad was too small for my fingers. Wished I was on an actual computer, which the hostel did not have.

    After a while, I went to check out in the pub, and put my backpack in the locker. Then went out, to an information centre, to buy a ticket for the Stonehenge tour. But then, I was told that I had to buy directly from the bus, as this was not the right place. So I went out, to the bus, where I had to pay cash. One big problem... I did not have enough cash!

    So I went to a nearby ATM, but it was not accepting my card. I tried to look for another, but did not find any nearby. I did went to a hostel to ask where another one was, but it was too far, as the bus was leaving in a matter of a few minutes. I went out, and decided that I could not do the tour.

    I went to the Bath Information Centre, which was a different one from the other one and just opened. Turned out, this was suppose to be the place to buy the ticket. I looked into other options, but decided that none would work, since I would have to return to London later that day. Oh well, at least I did see Stonehenge back in 2003.

    So I went to the nearby Roman Baths, and toured around the place. I would see the main bath, and a bunch of others at the site. Plus there was a museum with the artifacts. Being my second time seeing this place, the Roman baths still look the same now, as they were a decade ago. And a century ago, and even a millennium ago. Just amazing when really thinking about that. And it will still be there, a century from now!

    The Roman Baths date back to the 1st century, back when Britain was part of the Roman Empire, called Britannia at the time. Expanded in the 4th century, these baths are very well-preserved, for people in future generations to see. This one was built in honor of the goddess Sulis Minerva, which was a hybrid of Roman and Celtic deities.

    After seeing the Roman baths, I was really hungry, and decided to go on a food crawl. First place I went to, was Wagamama, where I had a chicken udon. It was really good. After that, I went to a Yo Sushi! I had 4 different dishes, all of which, were really good. I did randomly select some of them, to try them out. I knew about these restaurants from the 2003 trip, and can see that both have since become chain restaurants, expanding beyond London. By the end, I was so full and satisfied, even if it was so pricey, in a pricey currency.

    I walked around a little, then went to the Bath Abbey. Kind of hard to miss, as it is the tallest building in town. First looked at the exterior, then went inside to look around. When going into churches, I find it to be the perfect time to sit and relax my sore feet in a quiet environment. I walked around the church, looking at the art around the place. This Anglican Church dated back to the 7th century, as I looked at the art and architecture of the place.

    After seeing the Abbey, I decided to get some ice cream. There were a bunch of ice cream places around the area. I got myself a mint chocolate chip in a cup, which is my favorite flavor. And always prefer a cup, as I don't care for cones. A good way to relax.

    I headed towards the River Avon, to see the Pulteney Bridge. I walked up to it, then across it. There are businesses on the bridge, making it look more like a regular street than a bridge. Similar to the one that I saw in Florence. I walked down a flight of stairs, on the other side of the river. Just looked around, seeing the bridge and the surrounding architecture. Then I went back up, and headed to the Bath City Markets.

    The Bath City Markets, also known as Guildhall Market, was chartered in 1731, and at a different location, and outdoors. It changed locations over the centuries, until 1861, when the indoor one was built, at its current location. I looked around, which was small. I quickly left, and do one last thing in Bath.

    I passed through the Circus, which is a circular series of buildings. I reached the Royal Crescent, which was a semi-circle, or crescent-shaped, as its name would suggest. This was where the really wealthy lived. I came to No. 1 Royal Crescent, which is a museum that gave a glimpse of what a home was like in the 18th century. I got in, just as admission was about to close. So I had only 30 minutes to see the place, and would have to go faster than I wanted to. But I was able to see it without rushing it too much.

    No. 1 Royal Crescent, a museum is worth checking out for anyone more interested in seeing on what life was like in the 18th century. I would see a variety of rooms, with period furniture.

    After seeing No. 1, I started to head back towards the hostel, where I had to pick up my backpack. Once I did that, I would go to the bus station, and look for the MegaBus. Yes, there is a MegaBus in the UK, and in Europe in general. I was able to find it, and go on board. Turned out, the bus was not filled at all, and I would have the whole row to myself. Made the bus ride a lot more tolerable, and cheaper as well.

    The bus would leave Bath. I slept during most of the journey, as I was heading back to London.

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  • 20Apr 2015

    6 Returning to London 04/20/2015 United Kingdom —

    Westminster, United Kingdom

    Description

    I slept through most of the journey, as the bus was approaching London. And it was getting really dark. Once it arrived at Victoria Coach Station, I got off, and headed to Victoria Station, to the Tube. Then to the Russell Square stop. But I would stay in a different hostel, the Generator London.

    Finding it was really challenging, even when I did have the address this time. I would walk back and forth, up and down city blocks, but no luck. I would go inside one building, thinking that one is it. But it was not. Then had to ask a passer-by, who showed me the way. It was down an alleyway. No way would I have ever found that on my own. Especially at night.

    I went inside, and checked in, after waiting in line for a bit. But did have a friendly conversation with a guy named Calvin, from the island of Jersey. Checking in, I realized that I made 2 different reservations, for 2 different rooms. As a result, I would have to check-out the next day, and check-in again. What a pain, but I have only myself to blame. I was not able to change or merge into 1, because the hostel was fully booked. I went to the room, and looked around the place. This does seem to be the better hostel than the previous one that I stayed at earlier.

    I was hungry, and looked for a place to get some dinner. The bar restaurant was closed, so I had to go outside, and came to an Indian place. I was going to eat there, but they were closing up. So I had to take-out, getting myself fries (or chips, if we are speaking British), with chicken curry on it. It was okay, as I ate it back at the hostel. And used the WiFi to surf the internet on my phone.

    It got really late, so back to the room, and to bed.

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  • 21Apr 2015

    7 Laundry List of Things to Do 04/21/2015 United Kingdom —

    Westminster, United Kingdom

    Description

    I would get up early, and then decide to do laundry, as I was already running out of fresh clothes to wear. I had to get everything out of the room first, then check out, due to making 2 different reservations. I had to wait until it was time to check in again.

    I went to the laundry room, and washed my clothes there. Then would them in a dryer. That would take a long time, as I would use 4 15-minute cycles to try to dry my clothes. But it was not dry completely, as I had to come to my senses on how much valuable time was being wasted. Talk about a crappy dryer. During that time, I would just use the WiFi, and get to have a chat with an Aussie, who recently moved to London. I decided that I would not get the London Pass, as it would take a lot of attractions to justify the cost, and knowing my past history, that was not happening.

    After the dryer, I would store my backpack in the locker room. It cost money to store in lockers, but they were all full. So I just put mine on top of the lockers, like a lot of other people did. Then went out, going to the Brunswick, to get some food for my lunch. I should have remembered that buying from markets is cheaper than from restaurants. I got some food, and to the British Museum. I ate just outside of the entrance. After finishing, I went inside, visiting for the 3rd time.

    I randomly chose to go the opposite side of the Egyptian collection, and went into the King's Library. A hallway full of old books, that once belonged to King George III. Then went to see the Asian collection on the second level. First, it was art from China, then Southeast Asia, then India, and upstairs to the Korea exhibit. I could not pass that up! After all that, I decided to stop, even if there was still a lot more to see in the museum. I can spend a week in that museum alone, if I could.

    I went back to the hostel, to get my backpack, and go into the room. Just relaxed for a bit, and wash up. This one was closer to the shower room. After a while, I went out, to the internet cafe, to buy the Gatwick Express ticket. It was so much easier doing it on a regular computer, plus I wanted to do a few other things, that I had a hard time doing on a smartphone. Then went to Victoria Station, to ask about something that was nagging me. And to print my ticket.

    I then went to Trafalgar Square, where I would visit the National Portrait Gallery. Another free attraction, this museum also had a lot to see. I was not finished with the place, when closing time approached. As the name would suggest, it was basically a collection of pictures of people in British history. Starts with the Tudor period of the 1500’s, with the well-known Henry VIII, the king who married multiple times to try to get a male heir, and later broke from the Catholic Church. I was only able to see up to the 19th century, but from what I have been able to see on this visit, I thought it was mostly interesting.

    After leaving this place, I decided to squeeze in another attraction. I headed to King's Cross, and went to the British Library. I remember trying to visit this place back in 2003, but got turned away when it closed earlier than the stated hours. Not this time, as the museum was open late on Tuesdays. So I had plenty of time. And yet, at the same time, I did not have plenty of time.

    I went through the free attraction, and had enough time to see most of the collection. There are a bunch of religious texts, such as the Koran and gospels from the Bible, on display from different time periods, which basically takes you through the history of writing and printing. From the times when it was done by hand, to when it was produced by the printing press, an invention by Gutenberg. He made it possible to mass produce the copies of Bible in different languages, whereas before, it was only in Latin.

    Unfortunately, the Magna Carta was not there, as it was displayed for a special exhibition, at that same place, I believe. I would have had to pay for that. No thanks, and besides, I ran out of time. I hurried out, and headed to Piccadilly Circus.

    Once there, I looked for the nearby Yo Sushi, where I planned to meet up with Joe (joseph98). I assumed this was the same one as I went back in '03, when it was the only one back then. But it did not look familiar at all. No matter, as I got to meet with Joe for the 2nd time. We went inside, and just ate and hung out. I definitely wanted to meet in a more calmer environment, and turned out to be a good thing, as I did get to know him better.

    After picking a few dishes to eat, we left the place. Paying by cash there, I used up all my British pounds. It would have to be credit card from that point on.

    Walking around the area, I did have a brief scare that I lost my camera, and would even go back to Yo Sushi, to see if I left it behind there. I was in panic mode, still remembering what happened in Cambodia months earlier. Luckily, it was with me all that time. Then we went to coffee shop to hang there as well, for a while. Then had to leave, as it was closing up.

    Heading towards the Tube, a green Shaun the Sheep. Wow, my second time seeing Shaun, though a different color this time. Then we parted ways, as I headed back to the hostel.

    The day got off to a slow start, but looking back at it, I ended up doing more than I thought, mainly with free attractions. And meeting up with Joe, this turned out to be a really good day.

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  • 22Apr 2015

    8 St. Paul's Sheep 04/22/2015 United Kingdom —

    Westminster, United Kingdom

    Description

    I did get up early enough, at 7 am. I gotten ready and packed up all my things. Then checked out, to get a head start. I would have to carry my backpack the rest of the way, to save time from going back and forth to the hostel for storage.

    I would take the Tube, going to St. Paul's Cathedral. Luckily, this place opened at 8:30am, allowing me enough time to visit this place, before my flight out of London. Walked around the building, until I came to the front of it. Still not open yet, as I looked at the Greek columns.

    And another Shaun the Sheep sighting. This would be the 3rd time! What is going on here with Shaun? :) This one was a different color from the other 2 that I saw before.

    Getting back on track, I went inside the cathedral, and looked around the place. I would look around the cathedral area, then went downstairs to the tombs area. The dome would open an hour later than the cathedral.

    St. Paul’s Cathedral has risen from the ashes after the Great Fire of 1666, as it was built by Christopher Wren. It has survived the bombs of World War II, and where royal weddings and funerals take place.

    I went up the steps, which were narrow and very winding. Not surprisingly, I was out of breath really fast, as I am not exactly in the best of shape. Carrying the backpack certain did not help. There were 3 different levels, and the first one is the Whispering Gallery, which was still inside, at the outline of the dome area.

    I continued going up the stairs, to the 2nd level, the Stone Gallery. This one was outside, with a stone fence around it. So it was a bit of an obstruction to see the city. Then up to the 3rd level, the Golden Gallery, where I would get really nice views of London. Much better, as this level had no obstructions, blocking my view.

    I looked around the city for a bit, as this was a nice way to close out my visit to England. Then I headed back down to cathedral level. Then to the tombs, where I would exit. I did have some snacks, and ate that as my breakfast. Then outside, to the Paternoster Square area, where I would see another Shaun the Sheep. That would make it 4 times. He is everywhere! Just in different colors! :) Plus statues of more sheeps!

    It was a quick look, before heading to the Tube. I went to Victoria Station, where I was able to get a refund for the Oyster Card and any leftover balance on it, at the Tube station. Then to the station itself. I went to the Gatwick Express, taking the train to Gatwick Airport, one of 5 airports in London.

    Arrived at the airport with enough time, I checked in, and went through security rather fast. Then ate lunch at the McDonald's there. So far, so good! I went to the gate, where I would board on a Norwegian Air flight. The plane took off, as I was leaving England, and heading to Denmark.

    It was definitely nice returning to England, and re-visiting London and Bath. I got to meet up with TBers, which is always nice, though my timing was off. Seeing some again, and meeting others for the first time. Hopefully, we will all meet up again, in a more calm environment, somewhere in the world. :) But my trip and meeting with TBers is still not over, as I plan to continue to do both in a different country.

    Onwards to Denmark!

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  • 22Apr 2015

    9 Tivoli Arrival 04/22/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    Arriving into Denmark, as my flight landed in Copenhagen. Getting off the plane, I went through passport control, which was very quick. The opposite of what happened earlier in London-Heathrow.

    I went to buy a Copenhagen Card that lasted 72 hours (3 days). Then withdrew some Danish krone, before going to the S-Train. I hopped on that, and basically activated my Copenhagen Card, as I headed into town. I got off at Norresport, as I was told this was where Central Station was. But that turned out to be incorrect. So I had to switch to the Metro there, and got to Central Station. From there, I walked to the hostel, Urban House.

    Checking in was not necessary, in the traditional sense, as I was already given a code when paying for it online. I went to the room, and got settled there. I did have a friendly chat with a British girl, who has been in Copenhagen for some time. Oddly enough, I just came from the UK.

    When trying to recharge my devices, I saw that I brought the wrong adapter. The prongs were too thick to stay into the outlet most of the times. Sometimes, it would stay in there, but I would end up forcing it in there. I was annoyed, as I did not want to buy another adapter. And feeling really stupid, as I thought that I knew, just by appearance.

    As if that was not enough, I made 2 different reservations at this place, once again. And when trying to change the 2nd one, so I can stay in the same room, I could not, as it was completely booked. Not sure why I did this. Probably because I worried that I might be staying in a bad place.

    In any event, I decided to head out, and check out Tivoli Gardens. I entered the place, which is an amusement park that dates back to 1843.

    I just walked around, looking at the buildings, and admiring the architecture. Also, a nice place to people-watch, as it does seem to be mostly locals. I thought about going on some rides, but decided not to. Instead, I just bought some food there, like a hot dog, which gets inserted in a bun through a hole, along with some fries. And got some ice cream, even if it was cold outside. And it really was, even if I was layered up.

    I spent a few hours at the place, seeing the place light up at night, as if decorated with Christmas lights. It looked nice. It's not Disney, but still, a nice place to kill some time.

    I went back to the hostel, and just used the WiFi on my smartphone, as I hung out in the bar area. I started to feel a sore throat coming on. Went to the room, to go to sleep.

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  • 23Apr 2015

    10 Changing Rooms and Museums 04/23/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    I would wake up, and still have this sore throat. I would rest as much as I can, before having to pack up and head downstairs to check out, then check back in. I went to get some food at a nearby 7-Eleven, for my breakfast. Yes, it is hard to believe that there are 7-Elevens in Europe. Then back to the hostel, to eat there.

    Afterwards, I would have to put my backpack in a locker, which costs money. I figure, I would be back in 6 hours, so paid for that, as check-in time was still hours away. Don't remember how much, but pretty pricey. The headed out, passing by Tivoli Gardens, and seeing some nice architecture, as I was heading to the National Museum of Denmark.

    After going around a block, I was able to find the entrance to the museum. I thought it would be a good way to start my sightseeing in Denmark. Arriving there, it was a bit crowded, as there were some school groups there. I would tour the entire prehistory section, and a little bit of the Middle Ages one, before realizing that this was "wasting" some valuable time, since I had the pricey Copenhagen Card that has already been activated, and admission to this place was free. After spending about 2 hours, I left the place.

    But instead of going to another museum, I decided to visit an internet cafe, which was out of the way. Why? Because I wanted to do some things on a regular computer, and send a bunch of messages that way, as doing it on a phone was a bit of a pain for me. So I took a bus to another part of town, then had to walk to the place. Not easy to find, as there did not seem to be any signs to indicate it. And not looking attractive. But that should not matter, as long as I get to do what I originally set to do.

    I would pay and spend 1 hour on the computer, and used that time to re-charge my devices. I was able to do most of what I wanted to do, before my time expired. Then headed out, walking all the way to the Norresport station area. It was quite a distance, and I was undecided for lunch, until I saw a McDonald's. I just went in there, since I got tired of looking.

    When trying to pay by credit card, I have been asked for my PIN. I did not have one, and there was no way to override the PIN to accept the transaction, which was frustrating. So I had to pay cash. I ate lunch, then thought about the canal cruise. But not enough time, as I needed to get back to the hostel before my locker time expired. So instead, I went to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

    I would spend about an hour, touring the Egyptian gallery. Being such an addict for Egyptian artifacts, I just had to visit this place. And I had the place all to myself. There was one part when I went downstairs to a room of Egyptian coffins. Kind of scary, being in such a room, all alone. But an interesting experience as well.

    I left the museum shortly after, heading back to the hostel. When getting there, and trying to get my backpack, I find out that I was late by 1 hour. So not only bad timing on my part, but also bad math as well. I had to pay more, to get my backpack. Then wait again, to check back in.

    I would get a room with 4 beds, and so far, I was the only one in there. I got settled, and when looking at my bill, I realized that there was a problem with it. I ended up paying more than the amount charged on Hostelbookers. So I went to the front desk, and tried to fix the problem. But much to my surprise, I had to do it online. Wow, that has to be a first. I always thought doing it in person, was the best option. Apparently not, in this case.

    I went back to the room, and took a nap for some time. I was tired from all the walking around, and dealing with the mess. But I should have not gotten myself in this mess in the first place, and just made the entire booking all the way at once, instead of trying to make things as I go along, as I did consider spending the night somewhere else, outside of Copenhagen.

    I slept longer than planned, and hurried out, to the Ny Carlsberg. I re-entered the museum, and toured the place until it closed at 10pm. Seeing the ancient collection, then went to see the Danish art. Once again, I had the place all to myself, as it seemed like I was the only visitor there. I did get to have a friendly conservation with one of the museum guards there, talking about how cold it was at night.

    I would continue to look around, until it was closing time. Then had to leave. I was hungry, so I stopped by a Wagamama, but the kitchen was closed. I was surprised to see one in Denmark, as I thought it was a UK thing. I exited the other side, into Tivoli Gardens. I went through the park, and exited out, to Central Station.

    I went to a food stand, and got a kabob with noodles. Then went to the hostel, where I ate it. It was good, though very greasy. I went back to the room, and much to my surprise, no one else has checked in. So the room was all mine for 1 night. I would use the internet on my phone for a while, as I try not to lie down right after eating. Not good for my health. Then went to sleep late, as my sleeping pattern is a bit off.

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  • 24Apr 2015

    11 Side Trip to Frederiksborg Castle 04/24/2015 Denmark —

    Hillerød, Denmark

    Description

    Getting up later than usual, I went to a 7-Eleven to get some breakfast. But once again, my credit card was not accepted, due to not having a PIN. I was beyond annoyed at that point, and paid cash. I demanded to get a receipt, in case he tried to cheat me. That equally annoyed the cashier. I went back to the hostel, to eat there. Not a good start so far.

    After eating and resting a little more, I decided to take the day trip to Frederiksborg Castle. I went to Central Station, and took the train to the town of Hillerod. Once there, I took the bus, taking me closer to the castle.

    Hillerod does look like a small town. I crossed the bridge, and entered the castle grounds. Then walked to the courtyard area, where the Neptune fountain was. No water was running through. I looked at the architecture of the castle.

    Frederiksborg Castle was built during the reign of Christian IV, and completed in 1620. Who was Christian IV? The short answer, he was the king of Denmark in the early 1600's, leading the nation to prosperity and build some great castles. But also led the country to some costly wars as well, that led to its decline.

    I went inside, and toured around the castle. Starting from the Knight's Room or the Rose, there was so much to see in this place. Then went upstairs to see the Royal Chapel, which was huge. There were nice paintings on the wall, along with a bunch of coat of arms. This was where the coronation of kings took place. I walked around the Royal Chapel, before going into the different rooms of the castle.

    I went through the various rooms, seeing period furniture and a lot of paintings along the way, each group of floors representing a different time period, starting from 1500 to 1650 group of rooms. I would see the Great Hall, which looked like a ballroom. And the rest of the rooms, taking me all the way to the 21st century.

    After walking around for about 3 hours, I went out, and to the Neptune fountain. This time, the water was running. Then exited the castle grounds, and decided to stop by a pizza place, to get some lunch.

    I would try again, to use my credit card, and told the guy there, if it did not accept without the PIN, then I could not buy at all, as I tried to save cash. But luckily, it did this time. I took the personal pizza to go. Then went to the bus stop, where a bus took me back to the train station.

    I thought about going to some place outside of Copenhagen, like Kronborg Castle, Louisiana Museum, or the Karen Blixen Museum. And even hopped on a train to one of them. But ultimately decided not to go to any of them, since I was short on time, and did not want to rush. And I wanted to be back in Copenhagen with enough time, since I will be meeting up with TBers later on. So I got off the train right away, and just ate my lunch.

    Once I finished the pizza, I hopped on the train, and went back into Copenhagen.

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  • 24Apr 2015

    12 Canal Tour and Meeting With TBers 04/24/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    Arriving back into Copenhagen with enough time, I decided to do the canal cruise on a boat. So I headed to the Gammel Strand area, where the boat tours depart. But got sidetracked, when seeing a huge church building.

    I walked around the church, and saw the entrance. As it turned out, it was no longer a church, but now, a contemporary art gallery. The official name is Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center. The museum is actually a photo gallery, with a group of photos on display. I assume it is a rotating exhibit, meaning it changes from time to time.

    It was a short visit, as I arrived about 30 minutes before closing. And that it is a small gallery. Overall, I did not find this to be a disappointment. Then again, I did not have high expectations to begin with. I thought the photos that were currently on display, were interesting to look at, capturing a moment at a time and place. Afterwards, I walked around the church itself, and even seeing a sign that says "I'm not a Church", which I thought, was kind of funny.

    After that, I went to get admission with Canal Tours Copenhagen. Then just walked around the area, as I basically waited until time to depart. When it came, I hopped on a boat, and took off on the canal cruise.

    During the cruise, I would see some nice looking buildings along the way, as went down one waterway. Then went down another one, taking us to the Nyhavn area. The commentaries are interesting and informative, and the canal tour is a nice and different way to see the city. And relaxing as well, since you will be sitting the entire time. And a good way to get from one part of the city to another.

    Nyhavn is a street along the canal, with all those colorful buildings. Walked around, as I had only around 30 minutes to tour the area. The colors of the buildings just seems like those from the rainbow. This area is full of restaurants and bars, with some bands playing along the waterfront.

    When returning to the boat, it left the Nyhavn, and continued touring around the water. Seeing The Little Mermaid, not a good view, as I could only see the back of it. Seeing more buildings and going under bridges, we arrived back at Gammel Strand. Then I just walked to find the Cafe Europa, which turned out, to be really close. That made things so much easier, and suddenly, I had more than enough time to kill.

    Looked down the pedestrian street, until I saw the Disney store. I went inside it, and browsed for a bit. I guess you could say, my Disney side came out. Time to let it go though!

    Back to the Cafe Europa, which would be the meeting spot of the TBers, Yunni (gingerbatik) and Mickey (tj1777). Then we walked to, and around Christiansborg Palace (or Castle), as Mickey was being my tour guide, sharing the history of the place. After walking around the palace grounds, and seeing the same buildings from the canal tour from a different angle, we went to see the Round Tower and Copenhagen University. Then went inside the Cathedral of Our Lady, where there seemed to be some weird sleepover light show happening. I could not take photos since it was not allowed at the time.

    Back out, we walked, past the courthouse, towards the original meeting point. Then we went inside a cafe, where we sat and just hung out for some time. Forgot the name of the cafe! But it was a very enjoyable time, and they were nice enough to pay for my croissant. Afterwards, we parted ways, as I headed back to the hostel. Not the last time I will see them, that's for sure, as there would be a meetup with more TBers. :)

    Back at the hostel, I would have 1 roommate. So much for having the room for myself during my stay. And did manage to charge my devices, even if the adapter pongs were too big, as I did push it in. I did not want to buy another one. Then to sleep.

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  • 25Apr 2015

    13 Seeing the Hamlet Castle 04/25/2015 Denmark —

    Helsingør, Denmark

    Description

    Getting up later than planned, as usual. I would eat quick breakfast, and decided to take another day trip. Being that this was the last day for the Copenhagen Card, I decided to visit Kronborg Castle.

    I went to Central Station, and picked up a fruit salad as my lunch, as I planned to eat it on the train. Then rode the train to the town of Helsingor. During the ride, I was asked for a ticket, which was a first. I almost believed that I could have ridden around without paying at all, during the entire trip. Definitely not the case here!

    Arrived at Helsingor, and the architecture of the station caught my attention. Looked like something from centuries ago. I would walk along the harbor, passing by cultural center and some silver sculpture. No idea what that is about. Then entered the grounds of Kronborg Castle.

    First built in 1425 as Krogen, then rebuilt and completed in 1585 by Frederik II. That was when it became Kronborg Castle. It got damaged by a fire in 1629, and rebuilt again by Christian IV, the son of Frederik II. Also known as Hamlet's Castle, as there are usually performances of Hamlet in there.

    I walked around the castle, then went to the courtyard. Then entered, going through the Royal Apartments. This had rooms like the King's Chamber and Queen's Chamber. Each room had period furniture and paintings on the wall and ceiling. But not nearly as much as Frederiksborg Castle. I went through the Great Hall, a room full of tapestries, and a few other rooms. After all that, I would go out, through the courtyard, to the Chapel.

    The Chapel was small, so it was only a very short visit. It looked okay. Then went to the Casements, which has its entrance next to the Royal Apartments. Not sure I was expecting, but I think seeing a vending machine for flashlights, should have given me a clue of what to expect.

    I went further, going down a path, seeing the statue of Holger the Dane. Holger is a character from Viking legends. I walked around the upper level of the Casements, which was originally the servants' quarters. Then went downstairs to the lower level.

    The lower level was a bit of an adventure, as it was dark and dimly lit. And it can be a maze, and I am sure, some tripping hazards along the way. This was originally the solders' quarters, where soldiers stayed and waited for any possible attack on the castle. They could stay there for days and weeks, which is dark and cramped. I could not imagine that at all, being so isolated like that, for a long time.

    Coming back out, I went through it again, and even made a video of it. Not sure if I should upload it, since I talk non-stop through the whole thing. Back out again, to the Flag's Bastion, where I could sea the see. :P

    I walked around the castle, passing by the garrison buildings. Then I would leave the castle grounds. I headed to the train station, deciding to visit another place outside of Copenhagen. I was undecided first, but then decided on the Karen Blixen Museum. I got on the train and left Helsingor.

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  • 25Apr 2015

    14 Out of Africa? Not Exactly! 04/25/2015 Denmark —

    Rungsted Kyst, Denmark

    Description

    Leaving Helsingor, I took a semi-express train, which would pass the one that I had to get to. Then had to go on the opposite train, taking me to the town of Rungsted. Once there, I followed the sign to the museum. Or thought I did.

    I would walk into a residential neighborhood, and started to wonder why I have not come to the place, or even see any signs to the museum. After a while, I asked a jogger, and that was when I found out that I went the wrong way. So back to the train station, and had to ask someone again. When going the right way, I would see a sign that would have pointed the way. How did I miss that? It did seem a bit obstructed, and being across the street from the train station, which would have been diagonal from my direction.

    So I went the right way, and followed the sign, leading me into the forest. I would come upon the place from behind, and quickly entered, as I had only 15 minutes to see the place. No one was at the admission desk in the gift shop, so I went straight to the exhibition.

    I looked at some of the displays, and read a little bit of the descriptions on Karen Blixen. Then decided to photograph as much of the descriptions as possible, so I can read about that later on.

    So who is Karen Blixen? She was a Danish writer, who has spent some time in Africa, and written about her experiences there, in her most well-known book, "Out of Africa". I've only heard of that title as a name of an 80's movie, which I have not seen. What did I think of this museum? Enough to want to learn a little more about her, so the presentation was interesting enough. But I would say that the Karen Blixen Museum is only a must-visit for those who are fans of Blixen. For everyone else who never heard of her or any of her books, I would say, definitely skip it, as it is a small museum and out-of-the way.

    When closing time came, I had to show my Copenhagen Card before leaving. Then looked around the area, seeing the harbor across the street. And the park and bird sanctuary behind the museum. It was on the way back to the train station, and the way I came to the museum, so I walked through it.

    Reaching the end, I went to the train station, and took the next one back to Copenhagen.

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  • 25Apr 2015

    15 TB Meetup 04/25/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    Arriving back to Copenhagen, I went back to the hostel. I washed up and rested for a bit. After that, I got ready, and headed out.

    I walked through City Hall Square, and did take a moment to look at the City Hall building. But I did not stay long, as I did not want to be late. I arrived at the Riz Raz Vegetarian Buffet, which is an all-you-can-eat buffet of vegetarian pasta food. I am not much of a health nut, and hope this would be my money's worth. It was the place that I chose for the meet-up, since it seemed to be not expensive, relatively speaking. So if I ended up not liking it, then it's really all on me!

    Well, it was okay, as I got to eat falafel for the first time. The options were limited, but I guess that shows how spoiled I am, from eating in American buffets. And being meat-deprived certainly did not help. :D

    But the food was secondary, because of the meetup, which was organized for me. When I arrived there, Yunni and Mickey were already there. We went inside the restaurant, and shortly after, Christian and Ming had arrived. We all got together, and just had a great time, swapping travel stories and getting to know each other better (well, not exactly, since we all knew each other for some time on TB :) ).

    After some time, it was time to go. We all parted ways, and I headed back to the hostel. I would pack up a little, and just watched some videos on my smartphone. Then to sleep, as I had one more full day left on this trip.

    =================================

    The TBers at this meetup, in alphabetical order by first name, along with their TB screen names... Christian (Chokk), Mickey (tj1777), Ming, Walter (WalterC), Yunni (gingerbatik)

    Thanks to Yunni for organizing everything!

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  • 26Apr 2015

    16 Last and Not So Good Full Day 04/26/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    I did not sleep well, as I started to feel sick. Not good that this is happening on the last day. But it could be worse, like happening at the start of the trip, as it has happened to me in the past. I went out, to a pharmacy, to get some medicine. And once again, had trouble with the PIN to prevent paying by credit card. Plus I did not have enough cash at the time. The lady there, allowed me to let it go.

    I returned to the hostel, had to pack up my things, and leave the place. No need to go through the check out process, as the expiration time of the excess time, serves as the check out time. I would head to the next hostel, on the other side of Central Station, to the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel.

    I could only leave my backpack in the locker room there. Then went out. I withdrew more krone, and would return to the pharmacy to pay part of the difference that I was short of, for the medicine. Then went to the Burger King, for lunch. Surprisingly, I was able to pay by credit card, always thinking it should work in an American company, without having to punch in a PIN. After lunch, I went to City Hall Square. It had started to rain.

    Looked around the area, seeing the City Hall buildings, and the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid and Snow Queen. Then walked down a pedestrian street, passing by the Sankt Peders Church, and came to the Cathedral of Our Lady.

    This was the same church from the other night, that I went to, with TBers. I went inside, and this time, took photos. Then back out, looking around that area. It continued to rain, and I went to the National Museum of Denmark. I hoped to finish up seeing this place.

    I would pick up where I went left off, in the Middle Ages section. A lot to see, as I looked around for a few hours. Then decided to head out, planning to go to the top of the spire, at the Church of Our Saviour. But when stepping outside, I could see it still raining and a bit windy. I have read that the spire of the church, closes when the weather is horrible. So I decided to forget it, since I am sure it would be closed, and would be a waste of time to go there, only to find out that way for sure. Instead, I went back into the museum, and stayed there until closing.

    I resumed seeing the Middle Ages section, then went to the 2nd floor, to see the section, Stories of Denmark 1660-2000. I tried to see as much as I can, as this part is really extensive as well. Unfortunately, I would run out of time, as I was only able to reach until the World Wars part. There was 15 minutes until closing, but everyone was being told to leave. I guess museum staff want to go home so badly.

    I left the museum, and went back to the hostel. I checked in and paid, then went to the room. I was still feeling sick, and decided to take a nap. I would be awakened by noisy British girls, who were watching videos on their phone and laughing loud. Annoying, but at the same time, time for me to get back out, and see the statue of the Little Mermaid.

    It was approaching sunset, and stopped raining. I would just walk around town, seeing the Grey Friars' Square, with its colorful buildings. Then to the Kongens Nytorv, which was closed off, as it seems to go through some renovations. Next thing I know, I was at Nyhavn, from the canal tour the other day.

    I continued on, going through Amalienborg Square, which was where Amalienborg Palace was. Then came to a park, which had some sculptures. First thing to see, was the Gefion Fountain, which had Gefion, a Norse goddess. I walked on, seemingly taking forever to get there, until I finally found the Little Mermaid.

    I just had to see it on the ground, as I did not get a good view of it from the canal tour. Not crowded at all, but it did get dark. I looked at it for a bit, and feeling like, mission accomplished. Now, I can head back.

    But of course, getting back in the dark, would not be so easy. When in the area as Nyhavn and the Royal Danish Theatre, I attempted to take a short cut back. But of course, that would not work out, and take up more time and energy, finding my way around, and eventually back, after figuring it all out with my map.

    When getting back to the hostel, I went to the bar, hoping to get some food. But the kitchen just closed. Someone nearby, suggested a place nearby. I went outside to look for it, but decided to forget it after a few minutes, knowing that it would be very pointless. So I went back to the room.

    I started to organize my things, and pack up a little. I was feeling sick, it rained most of the day, and hungry, all on the last day. I decided to go to bed early, as I have an early morning flight. That would end what turned out to be not so good day.

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  • 27Apr 2015

    17 Leaving Denmark and (Not Quite) Heading Home 04/27/2015 Denmark —

    København V, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Description

    I ended up getting up an early hour than planned. But no point to go back to sleep, as I did have an early morning flight, which I did not want to miss.

    Getting ready and packing up, I checked out of the hostel. Then went to Central Station, where I tried to buy a ticket to the airport. As I did not have enough krone left, I tried to pay by credit card. Once again, no luck, because of the PIN. So I did try to get on the train, and hope no one would check. Well, I got off the regular train, and hopped on the Metro. I took it for one stop, to Norresport. No one checked for ticket.

    Getting out, I would try again at one of the machines. This time, I decided to enter a PIN, just for the heck of it. It was a PIN that I used before. And much to my surprised, it WORKED! Now, why didn't I think of this before? It would have saved me a lot of trouble. I guess better late than never. Really late!

    I got on the train to the airport, and there was no ticket check! At least, my mind was at ease during the ride. I arrived at the airport, and had my boarding passes printed from a machine. With some leftover krone, I used most of it, to buy 2 candy bars, as my breakfast. Then headed off to the gate.

    When looking for my boarding passes, I found that one of them was missing. So I backtracked all the way, towards the train stop, looking for it, as I thought that I dropped it. But no luck, so I had to go to the counter, to get them reprinted. After that, I went through security, and to the gate with enough time.

    Along the way, I was able to use the rest of my krone, by buying a drink using both cash and credit card. And wouldn't you know, I did not have to punch in a PIN. I went to the gate, and waited until boarding time. Once that time came, I got on the plane.

    The Finnair flight took off on time, leaving Denmark, and heading to Helsinki, Finland.

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  • 27Apr 2015

    18 Not Quite Home Yet 04/27/2015 Finland —

    HKI, Finland

    Description

    A short flight, as I noticed the pine trees as the plane was approaching Helsinki. When it did arrive, I had a 3-hour layover. That left me with enough time to get to the next gate.

    But getting there, turned out to be quite a walk. Probably from one end of the terminal to the other. Along the way, I would see some weird sculptures, and an arcade game. Now, that is something that I don't see anymore in airports. I can remember playing video games in airports back in the day, and really miss those times. But I digress.

    I arrived at the gate, with more than enough time. Then backtrack a little, to a food stall, to get some lunch. After eating overpriced food, I did use the WiFi until it was time to board.

    When I got on the Finnair flight, I could see that the plane was half-empty. That meant a lot more room, on the way back to the US. The plane took off, leaving Europe. When I got the chance, I moved to an empty row, where I was able to lie across multiple seats, to sleep. Or tried to, as it almost impossible for me to sleep on airplanes. Still, this has to be one of the best flights that I've ever been on, mainly because of having more room.

    I was heading back to the US. But not to Philly. And it was not a mistake, as I found it much cheaper to arrive back to New York City.

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  • 27Apr 2015

    19 Still Not Quite Home, But Back In the US 04/27/2015 USA —

    Manhattan, New York, USA

    Description

    Arriving into JFK Airport, I was not looking forward to standing in line for passport control, as it moves so slow in American airports. And I heard that JFK was the worst.

    I got off, and quickly walked as fast as I could. But much to my surprise, the lines were not nearly as long as I thought. And I went through immigration fairly quickly. With nothing to declare at customs, I was ready to go. Now, it is just a matter of getting to Manhattan, as this was my first time ever arriving in this city by plane AND getting into town.

    I took the AirTrain to the nearest subway stop, seeing the neighborhood of Queens. Normally, it would cost money, but in this case, it was free. Not sure why. Once at the subway, I was lucky enough to get on an express line, taking me to Penn Station. That left me with plenty of time until my next scheduled bus back to Philly, with Megabus.

    I was undecided whether to see this city, which I can't get enough of, even if I have been there a bunch of times. I don't know, there is something really engaging with New York, even to the point of wanting to yell what Winston Zeddemore did at the end of "Ghostbusters". But I should share all that in the New York City blog instead. ;)

    The other option was trying to see if I could catch the next scheduled bus back to Philly. So I walked to the bus stop, and checked to see if there was still room. There still was, but I had to pay $5 to change my ticket, which I did. I hopped on, and would leave NY, through the Lincoln Tunnel, and to the New Jersey Turnpike. Going this route, reminds me of the family day trips back in the 80's. Seeing Manhattan from the other side of the Hudson River, I definitely should make another visit sometime this summer.

    Few hours later, I arrived back in Philly. Then switched to a train, which took me back home. The trip to Europe was over.

    I had a great time in Denmark, getting to see TBers in Copenhagen, and visit the castles outside of the city. The meetup went really well, and I am sure we will all cross paths again in the future, whenever and wherever in the world that may be.

    But because this trip to Europe was to 2 really expensive countries, I would decide no more overseas travel for the rest of this year. Instead, back to visiting baseball stadiums.

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  • 28Jul 2015

    20 Finally Going to *That State* 07/28/2015 USA —

    Cleveland, USA

    Description

    It was time for some domestic travel, after deciding no more overseas travel for the rest of this year. My last trip to Europe, really did hurt my budget. So I figure this would be a good time to resume the baseball quest.

    Never easy to decide where to visit next, but I decided to visit the ones in Ohio. Originally, I was only going to visit Cleveland and Cincinnati, but decided to add Indianapolis (to meet a TBer) and Chicago (to visit the video games arcade) as well. And all of them will be in this blog, and not broken up in separate ones, as I tend to do with individual countries. Also, I decided to add zoos to the trip, as I just had this sudden interest in visiting them outside of Philly. Not exactly a road trip, as I will be getting around by bus, and no driving at all, to keep costs down.

    Speaking of Ohio, I would finally get to visit this state, which always has been *that one* on the other side of Pennsylvania. I can remember asking my parents about going there over the years during road trips, but understandably, not happening as it was about a 7-hour drive from Philly. I did have transits in both Cleveland and Cincinnati, and have driven through the state twice, but never really got to see it. And let's face it... it was not exactly an appealing destination, when compared to places around the US and the world. But all that will finally change, as I finally found a trip that worked for me.

    I had only 4 hours of sleep, as I had to get up really early, since my mom was my only ride, and she had to go somewhere that morning. Getting ready and packing up, I arrived at the train station. Then rode the train to the airport. Once there, I went through security in 15 minutes, as I decided to go to the lesser crowded terminal. Then walked around for a bit, and charged my electronic devices.

    It was time to board, and I got on the US Airways flight (which the airline will be no more in the near future). The plane took off, leaving Philly. And an hour later, I was already at my destination, a huge difference from my last 2 trips, as the plane arrived into Cleveland.

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  • 28Jul 2015

    21 Art of Progessive 07/28/2015 USA —

    Cleveland, USA

    Description

    It was time for some domestic travel, as I decided no more overseas travel for the rest of this year. So a good time to resume the baseball quest. After doing some thinking, I decided to go to the ones in Ohio.

    Now, Ohio was *that one* on the other side of Pennsylvania. I can remember asking my parents about going there over the years during road trips, but understandably, not happening as it was about a 7-hour drive from Philly. I did have transits in both Cleveland and Cincinnati, and have driven through the state twice, but never really got to see it. And let's face it... it was not exactly an appealing destination, when compared to places around the US and the world. But all that will finally change, as I finally found a trip that worked for me.

    I had only 4 hours of sleep, as I had to get up really early, since my mom was my only ride. I would get to train station, taking the train to the airport. Then took the plane to arrive into Cleveland.

    This visit would be different, as I would stay and finally see it. After getting off the plane, I went straight to the train platform, as I had no checked baggage. When I got there, I would have to wait until the next departure time. In the mean time, I would see the Stephanie Tubbs exhibition, which was the story of the first black Congresswoman, and from the Cleveland area. I skimmed through it, before getting on the train.

    I rode into town, on the Red Line of the Regional Transit Authority (or RTA for short). Getting off, I went to the Cleveland Hostel, where I would be staying. So far, it looks like a very nice place to stay at. It does look brand new, with nice rooms and lounge area.

    After checking in, I would go to the room, where I would take a nap. I did not get much sleep so far, and wanted to rest up for my only visit to Progressive Field. I decided to go to only 1 baseball game instead of 2, which was the norm in past trips. In Cleveland's case, I did not want to sit through a day game, and it would waste away a sightseeing day.

    After the nap, which was longer than planned, I got ready, put on the sunscreen, and headed out. I would have to take care of a few things, before heading to the RTA Red Line, which took me to University Circle. Then tried to take a bus there, but it took me out of the way. So I had to get off, and figure my way around on a university campus. Not sure of the name. Just know how freaking hot and sweaty I was feeling.

    I did find the Cleveland Museum of Art, and could not wait to get inside to get relief from this hot weather. It may not be KL, but I still don't like this weather. Passing by the fountain, I went inside the museum. Picked up a map, and started to look around the different collections.

    Starting with the Egyptian collection, which I am such a sucker for, where I would go to any museum in any city that has it. Good thing that this place has free admission, because the Egyptian collection was pretty small. After seeing that, I went to see the artifacts from the African continent. Then ancient art from Greece and Rome, and things from the Middle Ages.

    I crossed an atrium, and went to see the Asian collection, with a small glimpse at Mesoamerica (which was an area where the Mayans and Aztecs were), plus the temporary display of the Royal Persian Tent. And some American art as well, including one with Homer Simpson. Can you believe that? Who would ever thought that Homer Simpson would be hanging in an art museum? Enough to make those art snobs go "d'oh!". I saw a few more sections, basically skimming through them quickly, as closing time was approaching.

    When it did come, I left, and would head to Progressive Field. I got off at the Tower City stop, and came into a shopping mall of the same name as the stop. Walked around a bit, stopping by a few places, before finally heading to the ballpark.

    I would go through a walkway, known as the Walkway to Gateway. This was a skyway to protect people from the elements outside, and connected the mall to Quicken Loans Arena, which is the home of the Cavaliers. Came out, seeing a mural of LeBron James, and walked to the ballpark.

    I arrived there, and bought the ticket at the box office there. Hard to believe that I ended up paying more at the box office than it would have been if bought online. Usually, it is the other way around. Some stupid window fee, I bet. Also, box office people not having a clue where the shaded seats are, is just unacceptable.

    I walked along the ballpark, to the center field entrance, where there were statues and numbers. After looking at them, I entered the stadium, and went to see Heritage Park. Basically the Indians Hall of Fame, it has plaques of some of the greatest players in Indians history. There are also some plaques on the ground, commemorating the moments in team history.

    After seeing them, I headed up the escalator to the upper deck level, and got some nice views of downtown. Then towards my section, where I stopped by a concession stand, to get 3 hot dogs. It was Dollar Dog Night, and I have not eaten since breakfast. I was hungry, and would get 3 more before heading to my seat.

    Once I got there, I saw that the section was only half-filled. My seat had the sun shining on me, so I moved to another seat, and just enjoyed my hot dogs, as I looked around the ballpark. Some nice views of downtown, and a song called "Hang On Sloopy" plays in the middle of the 8th inning.

    I always knew this ballpark as the Jake, when it was called Jacobs Field back in the 90's. That was when the Indians would win all those division titles during that time, but nothing to show for it in the end. They made it to the World Series twice, in 1995 and 1997, both lost both of them. The 1997 loss, along with losing the 2007 American League Championship Series, have to be one of (if not) the biggest heartbreaks in Cleveland sports history. This city is truly cursed in the sports world.

    But no chance that this Indians will be winning it all this season, as they are currently sitting in last place in the division. They were facing the Kansas City Royals, who were currently in 1st place. Wow, how times have changed, when it used to be the reverse. Quite a few Royals fans were at the game.

    The game was a pitcher's duel, as the Royals scored a run in the 4th inning, but the Indians tied it in the 5th on a throwing error. It stayed tied until the 9th inning with 2 outs, when Eric Hosmer hit a solo home run. That turned out to be winning run, as the Royals beat the Indians, 2-1. I am glad that it did not go extra innings, as I did worry for some time that it would, resulting going into the late hours.

    After the game, I looked around for a bit. Then headed out, as this was another baseball stadium off my list. I headed back to the hostel, where I took a much needed shower. Then to the common room, where I would spend time transferring photos from my camera to Facebook, as a way of backup. Process is really slow. After it was done, I went back to the room, and to sleep.

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  • 29Jul 2015

    22 Rock and Rolling in Zoo and Museum 07/29/2015 USA —

    Cleveland, USA

    Description

    Getting up and out, I decided to visit the zoo, instead of going to an afternoon game at Progressive Field. I decided not to go to any more day games, as I could not find any information on shaded seats. Plus it wasted away some valuable time. So heading out, I wanted to get something to eat, and made a stop at the West End Market.

    Going inside, it was similar to Reading Terminal Market in Philly, and the ones that I normally see in Europe. A bunch of meat and pastry stalls, as I tried to look for something at prices that I am willing to pay. But there were none, as I walked around multiple times. While looking nice, the price was just too much for me, for so little. So I went to the nearby Dollar Store instead, buying a box of granola bars and some bottled drinks, at much cheaper prices. Then ate some while waiting for the bus.

    The bus came, and I rode it to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Getting off, I would walk along with a woman, who worked at the zoo. We had a friendly talk, even talking about LeBron James and "The Decision", which some people still have not forgiven him for. We parted ways, as we got to the entrance.

    After paying for admission, and feeling that it was going to be a really hot day, I entered the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (or just simply Cleveland Zoo). Also, it would be a crowded day, as there were groups of kids there. Probably from summer camp. More about the zoo itself in the review here, along with the photographs of animals and more. The review photos can serve somewhat as a list of the ones that have seen, though some are impossible to photograph due to flash not being allowed. And there are a huge load of photos. This blog will just be a summary of my visit, instead of a detailed walkthrough of the zoo, and some animal photos along with moments in the zoo.

    I came upon to the African Elephant Crossing (AEC), as it was made up of 2 separate yards for the elephants. It was a treat for me to see the elephants, as the Philly Zoo does not have them anymore. Twice a day, there was a crossing from one yard to another, hence the name of the section. But not a must-see, since the view of the actual crossing is almost completely obstructed by a tall gate that is hard to see through. Still, I think one of the best parts of the zoo.

    I would get to see some other animals at this zoo, that I would not at the Philly Zoo. Like the Mexican Gray wolf, koalas, and a different species of certain animals. Like a black rhino at this zoo. There was a temporary exhibit on the African penguins, and seeing the enclosure, it was so freaking small. But I did get to have a nice chat with one of the keepers about the penguins and even sports. And get to see a veterinary hospital. Going inside, it was one of the few places that was air-conditioned, and oh boy, I welcomed it big-time.

    Have to say, my viewing of the koalas was very disappointing, as it was behind the tree. As there were people in to the enclosure, getting a much better look, I can't help but think the viewing was "tampered" with, for those people to get a better view, since they paid extra for it.

    I would have to exit the zoo, to enter another part of it, the Rainforest, which was indoors. Strange how that sounds. This was where I would have my lunch at the restaurant there. I was hungry and thirsty, and it was indoors, which I prefer. After lunch, I walked around both floors of the Rainforest, as there are animals in them. Mainly reptiles, amphibians, and even insects. Wow, I looked at them, even if I don't care for them, but it was fun to see the reactions of others. After seeing the Rainforest, I would leave the Zoo area, and head back to the hostel.

    Once there, it was time to shower and rest for a bit. After all that, time to go back out. I went to the Tower City Center, and tried to figure out a way to get to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (RnR HOF for short). There was a bus, but that stopped running for the day. So I had to walk and run to get there.

    Once there, I looked around the area, seeing Lake Erie and the Browns Stadium. Then went inside, and started seeing the museum. Hoped that I had enough time, as I would visit on a day that it is opened late. Boy, I love it when museums are open late.

    Starting from the bottom floor, I worked my way up, to the top floor of exhibitions. Basically, a Hall of Fame for rock music. Strangely, I have not been to any of the other Hall of Fames in the 4 major sports. And won't get to go to the football one, even if it is only 1 hour away from Cleveland, as I don't have a car for this trip. But I digress.

    A lot to see in this museum, and I did find myself hurrying through part of it, as I did not want to miss any of it. As a result, I would get to see every part, but not all in detail. Some interesting parts included seeing some old musical equipment and devices, like a Walkman and boom box. Growing up in the 80's and 90's, talk about a major flashback.

    I would continue to look around, until reaching the top floor, which had a temporary exhibition on Herb Pitts. He was a photographer who took some shots of famous artists, like Madonna and Guns N' Roses. After seeing that, I was done, and still had some time left. But I ended up going into the gift shop instead.

    Looked around for a bit, and relaxed on a bench. Then I went out, seeing the glass pyramid building, which was nice to look at. While overpriced, I thought it was a nice place to visit.

    After that, I went back to the hostel. I did stop by a nearby Pizza Hut, for my quick dinner. Then in the hostel, to eat there.

    Also, I had to do some laundry, take a shower, and pack up a little, as I would be leaving town the next day. It was all done by 1 AM, and I went to sleep.

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  • 30Jul 2015

    23 Taking Greyhound 07/30/2015 USA —

    Cleveland, USA

    Description

    It was time to leave Cleveland. Getting up early enough, I had to finish up packing, and get ready. Then checked out of the hostel. I went to a few places, to get some change for the bus. Then hopped onto one, taking me into downtown, as I was heading to the Greyhound station. Oh boy, I was dreading that.

    I have not ridden Greyhound since 2008, and was not looking forward to this ride, after dealing with unbelievably rude employees and constantly being behind schedule. I also remember having a stopover in the middle of the night in the Cleveland station back in 2001. Not fun at all.

    But this case turned out to be different. I arrived, and had to get my ticket printed. Then waited until boarding time. I got there early in case it was crowded. Also, I did buy for the Express bus, minimizing the number of stops to just 1. The station was like a time warp, seeing arcade games and pay phones, and the overall look of the place. Took photos of it, until someone told me that it was not allowed at all. That was just odd. There was a restaurant, and I did not eat breakfast, but at the same time, I did not want to use the bathroom on the bus later on, so I had to skip it.

    I got on the bus, and would have the whole row to myself. It left Cleveland, and would make a short stop in Columbus. Wished I had time to stop there, as they have one of the best zoos in the country. But had to move on, and hopped on the same bus, but this time, it would be full.

    We did have a bit of a delay, as the bus had to pull into a rest area, because a kid got locked into the bathroom. And the lock got jammed. The driver tried to unjam it, but no luck. But there was someone else who was able to unjam it, so the delay was not long. Also, another reminder not to use the bathroom on the bus.

    The bus resumed its journey, and arrived into Cincinnati. It would be 15 minutes late, which is not bad, by Greyhound's standards. This journey turned out good, all things considered.

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  • 30Jul 2015

    24 Baby, If You Ever Wondered... Wondered How Red 07/30/2015 USA —

    Cincinnati, USA

    Description

    Arriving into Cincinnati, I walked from the Greyhound station, into downtown. Getting lost along the way, and stopping by a few places, I hopped on one of the buses, that took me directly to my hotel, the Guest Inn and Suites. Probably the cheapest option that was relatively close to downtown.

    I checked in, and went up to my room. I decided to relax for a little while, as I just had to sleep on a bed. Then ordered some pizza from Domino's, which was delivered to my door. A lot more convenient, though it cost a lot more than I would have liked to pay. But it did save a lot of time. This would be my lunch and dinner at the same time, as I hoped to not buy food at the ballpark.

    After all that, I decided to stop by a convenient store at a gas station, to get some drinks. Then walked into downtown. Not actually a long walk, but it would feel like that at times, because it was really hot. I would come upon Fountain Square.

    Fountain Square has that fountain, which I always remember from the opening of the TV show, "WKRP In Cincinnati". It would get the theme song stuck in my head, which was pretty catchy. The fountain itself, was not easy getting a good photo of it, due to the sunlight.

    Afterwards, I walked to the Great American Ballpark, which was only a 10-minute walk. I sat for a bit, to eat some of the snacks, and would look around the place. There were statues around the entrance, including a group of them known as the Reds Legends of Crosley Field. That was in reference to the Reds previous ballpark, and that era. There were the gift shop with the Reds Hall of Fame. I would visit the Reds Hall of Fame at another time, since it requires separate admission.

    I entered the stadium, and walked around to the back. The Great American Ballpark has been home of the Cincinnati Reds since it opened in 2003, replacing their previous home, Riverfront Stadium. It has not had much of a history, as it would not host a playoff game until 2010.

    I went to the end of the stadium, where I was able to see the Ohio River, which served as a state line between Ohio and Kentucky. And one of the bridges that went over the river, was built by the same architect as the Brooklyn Bridge, as they both look similar. And riverboats along the way, as I saw some of them across the river.

    I turned around, and went to the upper deck, in a shaded area, which provided much needed relief for me. Then to my seat, where I had nice views of the Ohio River, and could see boats sailing on it. Looked at the various features around the stadium, including statues and references to the greatest players in Reds history.

    Have to say, I always remember the 1990 team, the last time the Reds won the World Series. That season was the first full season that I followed, as the Reds were in 1st place the entire season. Managed by Lou Pinella, when they had players like Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and even Paul O'Neill. They would beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS and sweep the heavily favored, Oakland A's in the World Series.

    Strangely enough, the Cincinnati Reds took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in this game. The Reds were playing terrible baseball, while the Pirates are fighting for a playoff spot. I think the Reds were much closer to last place than first place, while the Pirates are sitting in 2nd in the NL Central division, and battling for a playoff spot.

    Turned out, a lot of runs were scored, as the Reds started the scoring with a 3-run home run by Marlon Byrd, giving them a 3-0 lead in the first. The Pirates got one back, but the Reds would explode for 15 runs total, as they would hit 2 more home runs in the game. It turned into a blowout, as the Reds beat the Pirates, 15-5.

    Afterwards, I left the ballpark, and went to Government Square, which was some kind of transportation hub. I would have to wait a while for a bus, as I decided to take it back to the hotel instead of walking back, since it was late. When it came, I rode it back to the hotel.

    Once at the hotel, I picked up a few brochures and went back to the room. I was trying to decide what to do the next day. Then went to sleep, as it was nice to have a room of my own for a change.

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  • 31Jul 2015

    25 Visitng the Zoo and Museums 07/31/2015 USA —

    Cincinnati, USA

    Description

    Starting out the day, I would get up and ready. Then was on my way out, until I saw that the hotel provided breakfast in the dining room, which was included. So I went in there, to eat it. Saved me some money there.

    I was undecided at first what to do. But then, I stuck with my original plan, which was to visit the Cincinnati Zoo. After breakfast, I went to the convenient store to get some drinks. Then hopped on a bus, going to downtown. Then transferred to one, taking me to the zoo.

    Once there, I had a little trouble finding the entrance. In fact, I had to call and got directed that way. I would have to cross a bridge from the parking lot, taking me to the main entrance. And had to stand in line to buy a ticket, if I wanted to get a discount with the coupon. After doing that, I entered the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

    The first animal that I would see, is the Sumatran rhinoceros. There was only one in its enclosure, and the only one left of its kind, in the US. I was told by the lady nearby, who was a docent at the zoo. She told me that the rhino will be heading back to its homeland, in hopes to breed and save the species, as there are only about 100 left in the wild. This rhino, named Harapan, was currently sitting in the pool of mud, probably to stay cool. There was a canopy roof over it, to provide some shade for him. Good luck, Harapan!

    Continuing on, as I went in a clockwise direction, with some backtracking along the way. The layout was better than the Cleveland Zoo, as I could go in a circular route. But the tricky part was seeing the areas inside the loop, like Rhino Reserve and Wolf Woods. And seeing more of a variety of animals and weird moments like the silverback gorilla showing off his butt. And seeing the Passenger Pigeon Memorial, which is a memorial to Martha. Who is Martha? She was the last surviving passenger pigeon who died in 1914, at this very zoo.

    There were 2 parts that I did not get around to seeing, which were Night Hunters and World of the Insect. I think you can figure out what those parts are. But I have heard that the World of the Insect has the best collection of insects. Still, by the time I reached the end of the circular route, I was ready to leave. It was very hot and humid, and I was not sure how much longer I could take this. And since those parts were too out of the way, I decided that I had enough for the day.

    So I exit, and went back into downtown. Then walked to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which was near the stadium. I went inside, feeling relief from the hot weather. As the name would indicate, this museum was mainly about slavery, and race relations in general. The underground railroad referred to the network of people that helped slaves escape to freedom.

    I started at the top floor, at the part that got into the history of slavery in the US. I would find myself hurrying a bit, as I was limited on time. And also, because of the temporary exhibition, Diversity In Baseball. Being that this is partially a baseball trip, I had to see it.

    Diversity In Baseball had displays and descriptions of the different types of people that played in Major League Baseball. Of course, there was one for Jackie Robinson, the first black to play in MLB in 1947. There were ones for Asians, Jews, Hispanics, women, disabled people, and more that have played the sport. Some players, I have seen them play or read about them, like Jim Abbott, Chan Ho Park, Roberto Clemente, Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki. I thought it was interesting to see, and a reminder how diverse the sport has become in its history. I would say, more so than the other 3 major sports.

    I would see the part on Invisible Slavery, which includes human traffiking, that continues to this day. And the slave pen, where slaves were stored before being sold. This was an actual building, that got transported into the museum. Then closing time came, and I had to leave. I looked around, seeing the river. Then went towards the stadium, as I would be visiting the Reds Hall of Fame.

    The Cincinnati Reds have been around for over 100 years, so they would definitely have some history in baseball. I decided to visit this place separately, so I could take my time instead of rushing through it, like I would have, on game day. Plus it was opened late. A history museum on the Cincinnati Reds, with all the memorabilia from all the different players that have played for the team. Definitely worth seeing.

    The fun part was getting to throw some pitches in a bullpen. There was some machine that measured the speed of the pitch. I could get no higher than 30 miles per hour. The average professional player could get usually around 90. So not even close, and more times, I would miss the strike zone by a lot. Looks like I won't be playing in the majors anytime soon.

    Seeing the familiar names, especially since the times when I started following baseball, did bring back some memories. Especially anything relating to the 1990 team, the last time the Reds won the World Series, which is the first full season that I followed.

    And I had the place all to myself. That was kind of surreal, as if I got transported to some other universe. Not often that this happens. Not that I am complaining. After seeing the history of the Reds and the plaques on those who made it to the Reds Hall of Fame, I would leave. The game was still going on, but not sure how far in the game.

    I walked to Government Square, and waited for the next bus. Then hopped on one, going back to the hotel area. But I decided to go to a Subway, to get some dinner. A bit more healthier, I had to go across the street to a different store at a gas station. Then back to the hotel and my room, to eat there.

    I did catch the end of the game, which by then, was the bottom of the 9th inning. The Reds would lose, in case anyone's wondering. Just glad that I decided not to go to the game, as it would have ended late. Just relaxed for the rest of the night, doing a few things like checking e-mail, Facebook, and TravBuddy. Then to sleep.

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  • 01Aug 2015

    26 Leaving Ohio 08/01/2015 USA —

    Cincinnati, USA

    Description

    Getting up early enough, I had to get ready and finish up packing. Then out of the room, and check out of the hotel. I did stop by the dining room, to pick up a few pieces of food. Then went out to the MegaBus stop. Luckily, it was only a 5-minute walk away.

    I arrived there, and saw the bus just arrive. I hopped on, and had the row to myself. The bus left, making one more stop, before leaving Cincinnati. It would make a stop at a service station for a break. Not sure if I left the state, as it was in the middle of the countryside. Once we pulled out, I would say, this ended my time in the state of Ohio.

    I had finally visited *that* state, the one on the other side of Pennsylvania. It was long overdue, and bound to happen when I started this baseball quest. And I was pleasantly surprised, on how enjoyable this state was. There were more places that I wanted to visit in the Buckeye State (nickname of Ohio), like Columbus and Canton, plus more to see in the 2 cities that I did visit. So returning to this state is definitely not out of the question. Maybe if I start the quest on the other 3 sports?

    My time in Ohio was over, but the trip is not, as I entered into Indiana. Another state that I never got to see, but only passed through twice. This time, I would make a quick stop in Indianapolis, as I looked forward to meeting up with a TBer.

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  • 01Aug 2015

    27 Mini-Meetup With TBers 08/01/2015 USA —

    Indianapolis, USA

    Description

    I would end up arriving into Indianapolis earlier than scheduled. I was a bit surprised, but then thought, I was riding Megabus, and they are not Greyhound. Before getting to the stop, I gave Jeremy (vulindlela) a call. Shortly after arriving at the stop, he arrived and picked me up. He came with his family, which included wife Michelle (pinpilinpauxa) and daughter Gracie.

    This was our 2nd time meeting up, with the 1st time being in 2008 at Shea Stadium in New York. And yes, I did get to meet the entire family back then as well. More about that meetup here. When planning this trip, I figure this would be a great chance to meet again, since I was going to pass through Indianapolis.

    I had only about 5 hours in town, so there was only time for 1 attraction, and decided to visit the NCAA Hall of Champions. We went towards the museum campus, and parked under the Indiana State Museum. Then went through the building, which looked like an interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, that will have to be another time.

    It was interesting to see a river (or is it a canal?) flowing around the museum complex. We went to the NCAA Hall of Champions, a museum that is dedicated to college sports. There are displays to see, which was not much. But it was more worth it for the interactive parts. And we did some fun, playing some sports. Well, just shooting some hoops and playing an interactive game of baseball against zombies, as well as soccer. Then looked around the place some more, before leaving.

    Afterwards, we made a stop along the river, with a nice view of it and the skyline. It was a nice day, with low humidity, so it was a lot more tolerable for me than the past few days. Then went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for a quick stop.

    This place is the venue of the Indianapolis 500, more commonly known as the Indy 500. Probably the most famous of the car races. Seeing the track, it is really big. So big, that the parking lot and museum are located inside the track. And there was a bus tour around the track. But no time for that or the museum. Just a look at the fountain, which was running. We were posing in front of it for photos, when the fountain suddenly stopped. That was really strange. And it would not run again.

    We left, heading back into downtown, passing by some sites like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, to the restaurant Shapiro's. Nearby was Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts. We went into the restaurant, and were in for a huge surprise.

    We thought it was going to be just a deli. It turned out to be a lot more, like a cafeteria. The options just seem endless, and the portions were pretty big.

    We would have our lunch here, and had a great time! So glad that we found this place to meet up and eat here. It was so much fun, in such a place with some awesome food. Any future visits to Indy, will definitely include a meal at Shapiro's.

    After lunch, it was time to head back to the bus stop. So a ride through downtown, and back to the bus stop. We parted ways. It was great to see Jeremy and his family, and hopefully, we will meet again, somewhere in the world. And I have to return to Indianapolis obviously, to see the zoo and possibly the Colts stadium.

    I waited for the Megabus. But it would be late. So it went from a great day to a not so good day, as I get annoyed really fast. That was due to talking to the agent, when asking why it was late. No reason was given, just hearing the same scripted stuff, like staying at the stop until the bus came and hearing that they are sorry. After hearing it 3 times in a row, I just wanted to scream at her for being so unhelpful. But I did not have it nearly as bad as one other guy, who told me that he had a flight to catch at O'Hare that same day. Oh man, that is rough!

    And the strange thing is that I would expect this from Greyhound, not Megabus. This has to be a first with Megabus. When a bus came, it would not be the right one. I would have to wait 2 hours for the correct one to come. And when it did, I was finally on my way to Chicago.

    Once the bus got there, I walked to the Parthenon Hostel, which was located in a Greek neighborhood. Got lost along the way, but was able to find it. I went inside the hostel to check-in, and find out that it was Lollapalooza weekend. As a result, I would have to pay more for staying there. Also, it no longer has a regular computer, since it kept breaking down.

    I went to the room, and did check out the place. I did get to meet a guy from Minnesota, as we talked for a bit. And relaxed for the rest of the night, as I tried to figure out what to do the next day. Then to sleep.

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  • 02Aug 2015

    28 Visit to the Zoo 08/02/2015 USA —

    Chicago, USA

    Description

    I was awakened up, by someone snoring really loud. I did try to go back to sleep. But a little later, I went down to eat the hostel breakfast, which was in the restaurant next door. Then back to the Chicago Parthenon Hostel, which I did not like as much as the other one that I stayed at before.

    After getting ready and deciding to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, I headed out and noticed that I was in a Greek neighborhood. When walking to the CTA train station, it then occurred to me that I was in my sister's old neighborhood. I never knew this before, as this hostel does not show up on Hostelbookers. It would have saved me time then. Even walked passed her old place. She moved away last year.

    I got on the train, and rode it to the Lincoln Park area. Getting off at the stop, I started out walking, but later hopped on the bus along the way. I arrived there, and then entered the Lincoln Park Zoo.

    I remember visiting a zoo in Chicago back in 1988, when my uncle took my sister and me there, when we were kids. I can't remember which one, as there are multiple ones in the area. I assume it was this one, since it was free, and just referred to it as the Chicago Zoo, assuming every zoo was named after the city.

    Well, whatever the case, I was here now, and got to see this one as an adult. It is not big, so there was not as much to see as the other 2 zoos that I have visited on this trip. But it was a hot day once again. And going into some of the buildings, it was like a step back in time, back when I visited the zoo back in the 1980's.

    A very good example would be the Kovler Lion House, the first animal exhibit that I saw. This is an old and historical building, and reminded me of the old cat house back in the Philly Zoo. Back then, the enclosures were basically stainless steel cages, which I am sure, not comfortable for the animals. And not comfortable for me to see, as I went through this building as well. There were a few other buildings like it. More about the zoo itself and more zoo photos in the zoo blog here.

    I would spend about 4 hours at this zoo, and still did not get to see everything, as the visit was cut a bit short due to rain. When it started to rain, I ran for cover first. Then decided to leave, as I wanted to go play some arcade games. This was my main reason for coming to Chicago.

    I rode back to downtown, getting off at the wrong stop. Then walked to Union Station, where I went in to buy a Metra ticket. When going up to the machine, some girl cut in front of me. I did not say anything, and luckily she was quick, as I was about to say something. I got my tickets, and went to board the Metra train, taking me to Brookfield.

    Once I got there, I had walk some blocks to get to the Galloping Ghost Arcade. I have been here before, and even talked about it in my previous blog. Even though I had only about 3 to 4 hours here, I enjoyed every minute of it, playing some of my favorite games of all-time, like Double Dragon. When it got kind of late, I had to leave, and run back to the train stop. Then took the train back to Chicago, and walked from Union Station to the hostel.

    I did stop by a Greek restaurant, and bought a gyro. The portion was a lot, that I could not finish it all. So I would save the rest for the next day. Then went back to the hostel.

    Just washed up and relaxed for the rest of the night. Then to sleep.

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  • 03Aug 2015

    29 Last Visit to Zoo and Some Retro Games 08/03/2015 USA —

    Chicago, USA

    Description

    Getting up, as this was my last full day, with nothing planned. I had a few places in mind, including the Chicago History Museum. But decided to make another visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

    I had a late start to this day, as I was making it up as I going along. I walked to Union Station, and rode the bus to the zoo. Then went into the zoo. Only possible to do this, because admission is free.

    I went to the picnic area, to eat the rest of my gyro. And it was enough of a lunch for me. Then went to see some of the same exhibits as before. But different results sometimes, as I got to see some animals more active, and others that were out of hiding from the other day.

    I did make a diversion out of the zoo, to visit the Lincoln Park Conservatory. I did a quick walk through the greenhouse, seeing different types of plants along the way. Then wen back out, and into the zoo again.

    I would come back to some areas, and see the rest of parts that were cut short due to rain, like the Antelope & Zebra Area. Walked around that, then to the Nature Boardwalk. I would exit out of the zoo, to go into a separate part, the Farm-in-the-Zoo.

    The Farm-in-the-Zoo is basically a children's zoo, consisting of farm animals. But I thought this one was one of the better ones, more organized. Walked around it for a little while, then headed out, as this completed my visit to this zoo.

    I went to one bus stop, but looking at the times, it would have taken too long. So I went to another, where a bus came right away. I got on it, taking me along Michigan Ave, through traffic, to Union Station. Then walked back to the hostel, where I rested for a bit.

    When waking up, it was back out, and walking to Union Station, where I got on a Metra train, taking me to the Hollywood stop. This one is much closer to the arcade, but unfortunately, it is only used during rush hour on the weekdays.

    Once at the arcade, it was non-stop fun playing some old video games. Almost like being in heaven, as well as a step back in time, in a good way. Unfortunately, it had to end, when it got late and I had to leave. So I had to walk to the train stop in Brookfield, and boarded the train back to Chicago.

    Once there, I walked back to the hostel. Just packed up a little, and showered. Then did a few other things before going to sleep. Hopefully, early enough to get enough sleep, as I had an early morning flight to go back home.

    Not much on the last day, but it was a good day.

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  • 04Aug 2015

    30 End of Midwest Trip 08/04/2015 USA —

    Chicago, USA

    Description

    I had to get up really early, and making noise as I had an early flight. Packed up, and checked out of the hostel. Then rode the train to O'Hare Airport.

    I arrived with enough time, to check-in and go through airport security. That line was really long, but at least, it was not a slow. I went through it, then walked to the gate with still enough time.

    I boarded the flight, and headed back to Philly. Once there, I went to eat at the food court there. Then left the airport, riding the train, as I went directly back to work. The Midwest trip was over.

    A trip that gets back to basics for me, returning to the very things that got me into travel one way or another. Like visiting baseball stadiums, and visiting the arcade. And finally getting to see Jeremy for the 2nd time, as it is always nice to meet TBers along the way.

    The new addition to my travels, is zoos, as I got to visit 3 of them on this trip. After seeing them, I definitely plan on visiting more. Plus I got to see 2 states for the 1st time, Ohio and Indiana.

    But now, it is back to normal life!

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  • 23Sep 2015

    31 Arriving at My Target 09/23/2015 USA —

    Minneapolis, USA

    Description

    With the Pope coming into Philly this coming weekend, resulted in an extra off day for me. So I decided to take a trip, and looked on Frontier to compare airfares. And chose to go to Minnesota.

    The day started with me going to work. But after work was done, I went to the airport. And rode with Frontier Airlines, to go to Minneapolis. Arriving into the Twin Cities, after going through the nerve-wrecking flight towards the end. The Twin Cities refer to the 2 cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which are basically right next to each other. Hard to tell sometimes, where one ends and the other begins. I will be visiting both this time.

    Getting off the plane, I had to take a tram to the other terminal, in order to get on the Light Rail. When I got to the station, I originally wanted to buy a weekly pass. But that option was not available at the kiosk. I went to the information desk, but it was closed. After trying to look up info on my phone, as reception was horrible there, I just decided to forget it, and buy a day pass. Then hopped on the Light Rail, which took me into town.

    When reading a sign about validating passes, I quickly got off, and tried to validate my day pass. But it turned out, that was not necessary. So more time wasted, as I got on the next Light Rail into downtown Minneapolis.

    I got off at the Nicollet Mall stop, as I was following directions from the hostel web site. But when looking for the bus to take me to the hostel, it was not on the correct street. Instead, I had to look for a different intersection, and this is where it got really confusing. When asking a local which way was south, that person pointed diagonally. And adding to the frustrating, was asking for directions, which only confused me more. After walking around annoyingly crazy, I was able to find the stop, and got on the correct bus. Turned out, it was much closer at Government Plaza, one stop back on the Light Rail.

    And oh, did I mention that it was raining this entire time, though very lightly. Still, I got wet. I would arrive at the familiar stop, that I remember from the 2008 trip. I walked a couple blocks, as I did not really remember where it was exactly. I did call the owner, and he told me. I was able to find the Minneapolis International Hostel, where I stayed during my last visit. And it still looked the same, with the dorm room having beds next to each other. And only 1 bathroom, with 12 beds. While not making a good first impression, I came to like this place. And some hooks on the back of bed, to hang some of my things.

    I checked in, and quickly got the things that I needed, as I wanted to see if I could make it to Target Field, my main reason for this trip. I was worried that the game could be rained out, as the forecast called for more rain. Well, I did call, and was told that the game was still on. So I left the hostel, riding the bus, then to the Light Rail, where it took me right in front of Target Field.

    I remember when I was there in 2008, the stadium was under construction. And now, it has been completed and in operation for 5 years now, opening in 2010. But I did not have time to look at the outside area, as game time was very close. I would buy a ticket from a machine. Once I got inside the ballpark, I made a dash to my seat in the upper deck.

    I got there just in time, as the Twins lineup was being announced, and the Twins was taking the field. My seat was under an overhang, which would keep me dry for the entire game. It was interesting to see the game being played outdoors, as I remember going to the Metrodome back in 2008. That was the first time that I saw a baseball game completely indoors.

    It was dollar dog night at the ballpark, but there was a limit, as only 2 hot dogs per customer. I was disappointed, as I almost always eat 6 during the game. Well, it ended up being my dinner, as hot dogs are a lot more enjoyable at baseball games. In fact, I think hot dogs is to baseball, as popcorn is to movies.

    Also, a strange and funny moment, when a word game was being played between innings. When the word game was football, the woman said "Packers". Can you guess what happened next? Yes, a chorus of boos.

    The Minnesota Twins took on the Cleveland Indians, the same matchup as the one I saw in 2008. The Twins were in the Wild Card chase, battling with a few teams for that final spot. The game was nothing to write home about. The Twins would do all their scoring in the 4th inning, starting with a Brian Dozier solo homer. They would jump to a 4-0 lead, and Phil Hughes was pitching a shutout. Then came the 9th inning, when the Indians scored 2 runs on a Carlos Santana 2-run home run. But that was not enough, as the Twins beat the Indians, 4-2. And got 1 game closer to the final playoff spot.

    I was surprised to see the game completed, as it rained badly at times. I went down as I looked around, until I came to the Metropolitan Club. I noticed that there was a exhibit on display in the concourse area. I asked an usher if I could see it, and they said it was okay, just in the concourse area. I also asked if this part is normally accessible to anyone, and they did say yes. So I went to look around.

    This part had the history of Target Field, from when it got approved to be built, to Opening Day, to various baseball moments in the ballpark. Plus all the awards it has won, and a photo gallery of all the MLB stadiums and past stadiums that the Twins played in, among others.

    After looking around the concourse, I would exit the ballpark, into Target Plaza. This had a lot of things to see. Since it was getting late and dark, as well as a little wet, I decided to see this part on another day. I may even take a stadium tour. So I left the ballpark area, walking into downtown, and to the bus stop. I took the bus back, to the hostel.

    Getting to the room, where there were many people already sleeping. So I did not turn on the light, instead using my cell phone as a flashlight. I still had to make noise to unpack and change clothes, before going to sleep.

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  • 24Sep 2015

    32 Rainy Day at the Zoo 09/24/2015 USA —

    St Paul, USA

    Description

    I did have some trouble sleeping, and decided later, to get up really early. Mainly to take a much needed shower. Then downstairs in the common area, to catch up on some things. I could see it raining pretty hard outside, so I waited it out.

    I would go to a nearby McDonald's, to get a breakfast sandwich, and come back to the hostel to eat in the kitchen. Then back to the room, and sleep a little more. Even though it would result in a late start, I really needed to get some extra sleep. After an hour, I woke up and got ready. And even though it was a cloudy day, I put on sunscreen. Then back out, and took the bus into downtown. Then the Light Rail into St. Paul, as I decided to visit the Como Park Zoo first.

    I would pass by the future Vikings stadium and the University of Minnesota campus. I looked up on Google Maps, and somehow, it gave really strange directions that took me really out-of-the-way. Then just for the "fun" of it, I decided to punch in the current stop that I was at, as the starting point, which was Lexington Parkway stop. Turned out, it was a much shorter bus ride to the Como Park Zoo. Huh? So why did Google Maps direct me to the end of the Green Line, adding 1 hour of travel time, I don't know. Though, what I was about to do, was not a sure thing either. I got off, knowing this was a gamble.

    I went to a nearby Popeye's, for a packed lunch. Then took a minibus, which took me to Como Park. The driver was nice enough to take me closer to the zoo entrance, even though it was probably not a regular stop. Getting off, it was raining lightly, but I was still getting wet. I was able to reach the greenhouse buildings, which is the Conservatory part of the zoo. Then went inside the visitor center building.

    I would eat my lunch in the cafe there. Not sure if it was okay to eat outside food there, but later decided to move outside to eat. I did buy a drink from the cafe though. After lunch, it was time to see the Como Park Zoo.

    I would go in a general, clockwise direction, starting with the Primates building. Then to the African Hoofed Stock, where I had a little fun, as I "ran" with an ostrich. Then went inside the Large Cats building, and came out to an area that had only North American animals. I would get an underwater view of the polar bears swimming, and see a keeper feed and spray water into a seal's mouth. Saw a few other animals, and just like that, I was finished with the zoo. Well, at least the outdoor part.

    Back to the visitor center, and I decided to save the Conservatory part for another day, which by then, I will see this zoo again, on a sunny day. I left, as I wanted time to see the Minnesota History Center. I walked through Como Park, passing through some arched bridges, until I got to the bus stop. I got on one, and headed to the Minnesota History Center.

    Once I got there, and in the museum building, I checked to see how much there was to see. When shown the map, it looked like a lot. Not sure if 2 hours would be enough, so I decided not to see it. Save it for another time. So back out, and to the Light Rail. I got on it, taking me back to Minneapolis. Then to the hostel, where I showered, and rested for a bit.

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  • 24Sep 2015

    33 TravBuddy Reunion In Mall of America 09/24/2015 USA —

    Bloomington, USA

    Description

    Getting up from nap, I was planning to visit before meeting up with TBers at the Mall of America. But when looking up admission prices, I find out (more like, forgotten) about it being cheaper to buy online and 24 hours ahead of time, than at the gate. As a result, I had to get to the Minneapolis Public Library, to use a regular computer.

    Once at the library, I had to take care of some things, like buying that ticket for the aquarium for next day. As a result, 2 trips to the Mall of America (MOA for short). After that, I left and took the Light Rail to the MOA, the largest mall in the US. Once there, I wanted to do a couple things.

    The first was to stop by the Disney store. Don't know why, just really felt like it. After visiting it for a little while, it was to the second thing, which was to see the home run chair. That meant, entering the amusement park. I would go up some stairs, and had to ask a guard where it was. When he showed me, I was finally able to see it this time, as I somehow missed it back in 2008.

    That was the home run chair, by the log flume ride, marking the spot of the longest home run in the history of Metropolitan Stadium. It was hit around 522 feet, by Harmon Killebrew. Metropolitan Stadium was the outdoor home of the Twins and Vikings, before they moved indoors to the Metrodome. The MOA currently stands where the stadium used to be. There is also the plaque that marked the spot of home plate, but I already saw that in 2008.

    I went to the east entrance of the amusement park, and met with Alyssa (alyssa_ob). Then we walked around the mall, as we tried to look for a place to meet and eat. And talked about the possible upcoming Eleven Heaven meetup, with host city still to be deteremined. Just made me think how different it is now for me, in regards to meeting TBers, as I thought of back then, when I only joined 2 months before my very first meet up with TBers.

    We must have went to 3 parts of the mall, which is probably only a small portion of it, as the place is really huge. We would come to a buffalo wings place, which looks like a sports bar.

    We would be later joined by Michael (Lord_Mike), *the* first TBer that I ever met in person. And the one to introduce to the idea of meeting TBers, when he contacted me by PM to meet up. We would order some of wings and drinks, and watch different sports events on different TV. Our attentions switched between the Thursday Night Football game, and the Twins baseball game.

    I would learn that Michael was at the same Twins game as I was, though he was with his mother. Besides, I barely arrived on time at the start of the game, so it was not a big deal that we did not meet at Target Field. I ordered wings with chipotle, but in powder form, which I never saw before. Can't remember what the others ordered. But it was okay, as I would have preferred the saucy form.

    After a few hours, it was time to part ways. I would get a ride from Michael, who took me back to the hostel. And he does know his history of the Twin Cities, which was interesting to hear. Once back at the hostel, I went inside, and a short while later, to sleep.

    It was great to see the very TBers that I ever met. Not only a reunion with them, but in a way, reunion with personal TB history. ;)

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  • 25Sep 2015

    34 Rough Start, to a Great Zoo 09/25/2015 USA —

    Apple Valley, USA

    Description

    Getting up and ready, I went to a McDonald's for breakfast. Then back to the hostel, to take care of some things, as I was preparing to go to the suburb of Apple Valley, to visit the Minnesota Zoo. I headed out, and walked to a bus stop. Getting there, I would go the wrong way, and got nearly hit by a car, as I did try to cross a street on a red light. Then walked for about 15 minutes, to a bus stop, which was next to an interstate highway.

    The bus came, and I went to pay for a day pass. And this is where the problem happened, as the machine did not print the pass out. The driver was clueless, as the machine seemed jammed. There was another guy, who had a similar problem, as he needed a fare card to transfer. And he would really lose it, when he had to get off, but the driver could not do anything. The guy got off, and I started to call customer service about this. I go transferred a couple times, until talking to the right person. But that person had to get back to me. So what am I suppose to do until then?

    When I my stop came, I would ask the driver about this, as I was not willing to get ripped off like this, especially in America. But then, the driver did a surprising thing, which was, give me $3 cash. While not as much as a day pass, which is $6, I was a lot more forgiving. Then went to the Minnesota Zoo.

    I considered buying a zoo membership, as I heard that this zoo was huge and took 2 days to see. But ended up not buying it. After paying admission, I start out at Discovery Bay, which is a small aquarium. I wanted to see the rare Hawaiian monk seals, but that exhibit was closed off at the time. So I would have to come back later. After seeing this part, I would walk around more of the building, seeing the snow monkeys along the way.

    After walking around inside the building, I decided to save the indoor parts for later in the day. As it was cloudy outside, I decided to go outside to see the outdoor parts, as I am not a fan of being in direct sunlight for a long time. I walked to see the snow monkeys outside, then went to Russia's Grizzly Coast.

    This part focused on animals living in Far East part of Russia, like Amur tigers and brown bears. After seeing this part, then I walked around half of the Northern Trail. This part has animals that normally live in northern climates, like Minnesota and further north. Like bison and prairie dogs! Plus I saw the old monorail track, which stopped running in 2013 due to high costs and low ridership. Then to the Wells Fargo Family Farm, which has... you guessed it... farm animals.

    This was also when the Metro Transit called me, and when talking with them, I would decide later, whether to arrange a pick up time and place to get the day pass, should I continue following up.

    After seeing this part with the farm animals, it was back to the Northern Trail, seeing the rest of it. I would see moose and the other side of the tiger enclosure. Then I went back inside the building, with Discovery Bay. It was time for the keeper talks with the Hawaiian monk seals. Not sure if they are temporary or permanent residents. Then went to get some lunch.

    After lunch, it was the indoor parts of the zoo. Starting with Tropic Trail, which is an indoor greenhouse-like place, with animals from the warmer climates. Organized by continents, as I saw animals from different tropical regions around the world. A bunch of birds, along with lemurs and Komodo dragons, and much more.

    Then to the last part, the Medonic Minnesota Trail, focusing on the local wildlife, like coyotes and river otters. After that, I was done, as this zoo visit ended up taking only 5 hours. I thought it was going to take me 2 days. Regardless, I thought this was a great zoo. More about that in the zoo blog.

    I decided to forget about the day pass, and exited the zoo. I hopped on a bus, taking me to a transit center. Then a Red Line, which was a bus, taking me to the Mall of America.

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  • 25Sep 2015

    35 Returning to Sea-ing Life 09/25/2015 USA —

    Bloomington, USA

    Description

    As the Red Line got close to the Mall of America, I got off one stop too early. But luckily, the Light Rail was a very short walk away. So I went there, and hopped on it, to the MOA. Once there, I went directly to the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium. I had to show them my confirmation number on my smart phone, then was able to enter the place. First thing that I would see, is a side of a pirate ship. Then the stingrays, where one can touch them in a pool.

    I did visit this place back in 2008, and remember being very disappointed in it. Since then, the aquarium has gone through renovations, and now that I have this interest in visiting aquariums (in addition to zoos), I decided to check it out again. So what do I think about this time? Well, you can read that, and more about the aquarium, along with more photos, in the aquarium blog.

    I do have to say though, it was strange going through a dark room of colorful jellyfishes. Not sure how that happened, but it almost looked like a dance room in some weird nightclub. And going through the shark tunnel was really something. This time, there was no conveyor belt walkway, or whatever those moving things are called. And the tunnel is divided by different regions. And it ended with the Mysteries of the Rainforest, where I would see some animal called an oscar. Not an animal named Oscar, but an animal called an oscar. If that makes any sense!

    A short visit, as it took me an hour to see this place. I went through the gift shop, to exit the place. Then made a detour to the amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe. Looked around for a bit, and did get to see Spongebob Squarepants as a meet-and-greet character! Walked around quickly, stopping by an arcade. It did not have any games that caught my interest, and I had a Metro pass that was about to expire soon. So time to leave the Mall of America, as I got on the Light Rail.

    This Metro pass was good for 2 1/2 hours. So I hoped to get into downtown Minneapolis, then catch the bus back to the hostel, before the pass expired. I rode the Light Rail, counting down the stops, until I got to Government Plaza. Then got on the bus, where I would breathe a sigh of relief when the pass was accepted, as it just expired at that minute. So there was no need to pay for another.

    I got back to the hostel, and rested for a bit. Then visit one more attraction.

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  • 25Sep 2015

    36 Seeing Some Art at Night 09/25/2015 USA —

    Minneapolis, USA

    Description

    After resting for a bit, it was time to head back out, to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Luckily for me, it was open late on Fridays, and it was right next to the hostel that I was staying at. This was a huge luxury for me, as it very rarely happens for me. As a result, I did not have to hurry nearly as much, and no dependence on public transportation.

    So I went to the museum entrance, and saw a head sculpture on its side. Wait a minute? Didn't I saw this very same thing when I was in Poland back in 2011? Anyway, it was the head of Eros, and more likely, a replica. After seeing this, I went inside the museum. More about this museum itself in the photos here. Also, I would captioned the photos of things by just the name of it, and any relation to where it came from. You can always Google the item if you want to know more about it.

    I would have around 2 hours to see this place, until it closes. And not surprisingly, it was not crowded at all, though not completely empty either. I would start out seeing the Asian collection (naturally and that it was right by the entrance), though mostly artifacts from China and India, plus some from Southeast Asia and the Himalayas as well. Some rooms were closed off, so I could not see the Korean collection at all. But one thing that I would know about it, that it would be really small collection.

    I would also look at art from Europe, Africa, and the US. The European part would include some Dutch, French, and ancient art. Plus there were some rooms that had a more local focus on Minnesota art, and even one that had displays on culinary art and how the mind may work there. Not actual food, in case anyone is wondering.

    Plus there were replicas of different rooms and different homes, from different time periods and from different parts of the world. Can't be any more different than that! ;)

    A lot to see, but after the kind of day that I had, I started to feel tired. I tried to stick it out until closing time, until realizing that it was becoming too much of a chore. Then decided to leave, with 20 minutes until closing. Luckily, admission was free, so there are chances to return to the museum anytime.

    And again, it was great that I cross a street, and already I am back at the hostel. Just a few minute walk, if that! Once back, I did a few things, like looking up some info and washing up, then went to sleep.

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  • 26Sep 2015

    37 A Superior, Foggy Day Trip 09/26/2015 USA —

    Duluth, USA

    Description

    Getting up and ready, it was time to take the day trip to Duluth, which was more than 2 hours away. I would head to the Light Rail, and ride it to the airport. I thought that I got off at the wrong stop, but luckily, it ended up not mattering. So I went to the Advantage desk, to pick up the car. Talking with the agent, we would end up talking some football. After that, I went to the car, and drove away.

    I was very lucky that XM Satellite radio was included, and naturally, I tuned into the 80's station. This made the drive a lot more enjoyable, and a reminder how domestic travel can be just as enjoyable as foreign travel. Just in a different way. Along the way, I would hear the top 40 countdown from September 1988, which took me back to 7th grade.

    I stopped by a Wal-Mart, to get some food for breakfast. Not exactly healthy, eating a chocolate pie and a candy bar. Then continued on my way to Duluth on I-35. As I got closer to Duluth, suddenly I was going through very thick fog. As if it just came out of nowhere. When I stopped by an information center, I asked the lady there, how long it has been foggy in the area, and she told me that it has been nearly a week. Oh boy! I could hardly see ahead of me.

    I would go to my first destination, the Lake Superior Zoo. Once I got there, I would tour around this zoo, starting with the indoor exhibits, which has some reptiles, insects, and small mammals. I would go outside to see some animals, then go inside the Primate Conservation Center. This was where I would have to cover my nose at times, as the smell was really strong. I would see some of the primates, along with the nocturnal animals in the Nocturnal Building. Then back out, into daylight. Then went to see some farm animals at the Barnyard. Then to the back, where there were animals to see, like the Eurasian lynx, brown bear, and American crows.

    Then I came to Polar Shores, which used to house the polar bears, but now, the enclosure is empty and bare. That was due to a horrible flood in 2012, which killed 14 animals. The zoo is still undecided what to do with this section. As I see the Kingsbury Creek flowing, flooding would always be a possibility. I hope for the best.

    I went to see the rest of the zoo, seeing the African lions, and the Australian animals as well. Then back to the main building, where I would eat lunch at the cafe there. Pizza and chips for lunch. And I was done seeing this zoo. More about the zoo itself and more zoo photos in the zoo blog.

    Leaving the zoo, the next place was to the Great Lakes Aquarium. Only a very short drive away, I got there without any problem, besides the fog. Once there, I went inside the place, seeing a water wall, as I was paying admission. Then start on the 2nd floor, which was more of a science museum than an actual aquarium, as I was doing more reading than normally expected in an aquarium. But I had to see it through, and then judge it.

    Turned out, there were some really interesting aspects to this place, and there are marine animals on display. More about all that and more aquarium photos in the aquarium blog.

    After seeing the 2 floors of exhibits in this aquarium, I would end my visit on a special and temporary exhibition, "Otters Underwater" by Kat Corrigan. This was a series of paintings on otters swimming. While it can be hard to tell what exactly is going on, I could definitely feel the artist's love in these works. Worth seeing, and can't help but notice them when passing by them on my way to the bathroom.

    Afterwards, I left the aquarium, and walked along the waterfront. I would cross over the canal, then onto a street, leading me to the Aerial Lift Bridge. I would go along the water, and get to see the bridge lift. Not done by splitting upward, but the street level lifted vertically. Unusual to see. It is a historical landmark, as it was built in 1905.

    I went to the street, and crossed the bridge halfway. Then came back, to save time. I considered waiting to see it lift again, and seeing it from the side. But decided against that, and started to head back. Then remembered about the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, which was open late. But also declined that, as I wanted to head start to get out of this fog while it was still daytime. Walked along the waterfront, disappointed that I could see only a little of Lake Superior, assuming it is. Then that would be 3 of the 5 Great Lakes that I have seen.

    So back in the car, and back on I-35, heading back to the Twin Cities. I did not want to drive in the fog at night. After I reached a certain point, the fog was gone. As if I just exited a fog bubble, which covers the city of Duluth. By then, the sun was just starting to set. So I did get out just in time.

    I would stop by the same exit as the Wal-Mart, and went to a nearby Pizza Hut. It was a dine-in one, which are rare these days. I remember having family outings in Pizza Hut, playing whatever arcade games were there, and picking some songs on the jukebox. The 80's!

    But the prices snapped me back into the present, as they were really high. After eating a small pizza and drinks, running to almost $10, I left and went to the same Wal-Mart, across the street. I decided to buy some healthy food, as I realized that I ate really horribly the whole day. And cheaper as well! After shopping, back on the road. I did make one more stop for gas, before finally arriving back into the Twin Cities.

    I was able to get to the hostel, and find a parking spot for free. And a good one as well! I went back into the hostel, to store my food away. And got to talk to Steven, who worked at the hostel. After that, I was back in the room. Took care of some things, then went to sleep.

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  • 27Sep 2015

    38 Returning to Target Plaza 09/27/2015 USA —

    Minneapolis, USA

    Description

    I had to wake up early enough, so I would have enough time to return the car at the airport. I ate a couple of the English muffins for breakfast. Then went out, heading to the airport.

    But before I do that, I had to make sure the gas tank was full, so I stopped by a gas station, to fill up the tank. Then drove to the airport, getting there without any problem. I arrived with enough time, and dropped off the car. I will miss that XM satellite radio.

    I walked to the Light Rail, and headed to target Field. Along the way, I saw a lot of people in Vikings gear, and some in Chargers gear, as the Vikings are playing the Chargers that day. I considered going to the game, but the timing did not work out for me, so I did not go.

    Arrived at Target Field, which was at the end of the line on the Light Rail. There was no Twins game. Instead, I would walk around the ballpark, to see the features along the way. Starting from the same entrance I entered, I would go in a clockwise direction (I think). Passed by some murals, which told a story on the Twin Cities. Then walked to one of the skyways, through part of it, then got out to see Target Plaza.

    This part was basically an open-air museum, as it showed the history of the Minnesota Twins. Leading off with the statue of Harmon Killebrew, with Kirby Puckett on deck, and the Golden Glove sculpture in the hole. And along the way, there are 9 topiary frames. I think baseball fans can figure out what I meant by the 2nd sentence, and why there are 9 topiary frames.

    There was a lot more to see in Target Plaza. And I would mention them in the review here. Unfortunately, the sunlight would make it difficult to take photographs. I considered doing the stadium tour, which was starting at that moment. But decided not to do it.

    Leaving Target Plaza, I continued walking around the ballpark, passing by the championship flags, to the other side. This was where there were a row of Peanuts characters. Probably as a promotion for the upcoming Peanuts movie, as well as the fact that their creator, Charles M. Schultz, was a St. Paul native. Not sure if it's a temporary or permanent exhibition, so for the time being, I did not mention this in the review. Either way, I did like seeing this, as I did grow up watching the Peanuts and have read the comics. In case anyone is wondering, my favorites are Snoopy and Charlie Brown (who I can definitely identify with).

    I reached the end, to the statue of Spot, the mascot of the Target department stores. Then got on the Light Rail, and walked to the Minneapolis Public Library. But it was not open yet, and I did not feel like waiting. So I left, and headed back to the hostel for a little while.

    Coming back out, walked a few blocks to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. After getting stuffed, I went to a nearby K-Mart, to buy some things. Then to a bus stop, where I got on a bus, hoping it would take me to St. Paul. But I got only about halfway, and had to switch to another bus at another spot. So I had to cross a busy street, and caught that other bus just in time, going to St. Paul.

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  • 27Sep 2015

    39 Finishing Up From Other Day 09/27/2015 USA —

    St Paul, USA

    Description

    I arrived into St. Paul, and decided to do the remaining attractions, that I should have done the other day. As a result, not only did I decide not to go to a Vikings game, but I also decided to skip the Wild hockey game as well. Besides, it was a preseason game, and started too early for me. And I would be a tad more regretful if I skipped the museums than the sporting events.

    I came to the Minnesota History Center, from the other day. This time, I would see it, since this was my last day. I went inside, paid admission, and went to the 1st exhibition. It was a temporary one, called "We Are Hmong". The "H" is silent when pronouncing it.

    The Hmong people came originally from ancient China, and have moved to various locations in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. After the Vietnam War and the fall to communism in Southeast Asia, a huge number of Hmong people moved to the US, a sizable amount to Minnesota. Walking around this section, there were displays of traditional clothes, military uniforms, and other things. Plus the history of them, which I did find interesting.

    After seeing this section, I went to see the other sections of the museum. Next section that I saw, was "Open House". Then the "Then Now Wow", followed by "Minnesota's Greatest Generation" and "Weather Permitting". I assume they are permanent exhibitions of the museum, which are okay. But not worth going out of my way to see it, as it seems to be more for in-state visitors than out-of-state ones.

    It took me almost 2 hours to see this place. Then I left, and headed to the Como Park Zoo. It took me a while to get there, since buses don't run as much on Sundays. I had to finish up seeing this zoo before my trip ended.

    I arrived at Como Park, and walked to the zoo. Then went through the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, which was a greenhouse. Then Tropic Encounters, a much smaller version of Tropic Trail of the Minnesota Zoo. There were some animals to see. With enough time, and being a sunny day, I walked around the zoo again.

    This time, some of the animals seemed a lot more active, like the tiger and snow leopard. Plus I got to see the reindeer, Arctic fox, and wolf this time around. Then closing time came, and I left the Como Park Zoo. I felt satisfied with my decision to do this. I would take the bus, then the Light Rail back to Minneapolis. Then back to the hostel.

    At the hostel, I would meet a few of the British roommates, who were on a football quest. They are trying to visit all the NFL stadiums within one season. In fact, one of them recently went to Philly, and wore a Cowboys jersey at the game there. So it was no surprise when he told me about the nastiness of fans there, especially towards Cowboys fans. Another guy is trying to find ways to get to Green Bay, for the Monday night game.

    I would also meet a Russian girl, who now currently lives in Chicago, and we all had a friendly chat, along with the British guy trying to go to Green Bay. One of them told me that there was a Super Blood Moon, but I never got around to go outside to see it.

    I just ate some dinner, eating more healthy, as I ate a salad. Then started to do some packing up, as I would have to catch a flight the next morning. Then to sleep.

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  • 28Sep 2015

    40 End of Minnesota Trip 09/28/2015 USA —

    Minneapolis, USA

    Description

    Time to get up, and get ready to go home! I had to finish up packing, and do the usual things with checking out of the hostel, like dropping off bed sheets and the key. And I ate the rest of my Thomas English muffins as my breakfast. More healthier (or at least, not nearly as greasy), and cheaper too.

    I left the hostel and went into downtown. I walked about a block, to the next Light Rail stop at Nicolett Mall, hoping to stop by a store to buy some water. But none were there. Instead, I would see a few sculptures along the way. I would get on the next Light Rail, and go to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

    But I ended up getting off at the wrong stop, being at the wrong terminal, as there are 2 stops at the airport. So I had to wait and backtrack to the correct one. Once there, I would find myself in a hurry, hoping to check-in on time. I did make it to the counter, to check-in for my flight. Then went through the security line, which was just next to the counters.

    Got to the gate with enough time. I did hang out for a bit in the restaurant, getting a fountain soda. Then came time to board. I got on the plane, and it took off on time, as I sat on the aisle seat. Leaving Minnesota, I arrived back into Philly. Then it became a bit difficult to get back home from the Philly airport, as the regional trains were on a modified schedule, due to the Pope's visit that weekend. Taking longer than usual, I was able to make it back home.

    The trip to Minnesota was over! But it was a very enjoyable time, as I got to visit Target Field, see some TBers again after a long time, and go to some zoos and aquariums. And with the baseball regular about to end, this is it with visiting stadiums. I hope to resume it sometime next year.

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  • 08Nov 2015

    41 Day Trip to Brandywine 11/08/2015 USA —

    Chadds Ford, USA

    Description

    I decided to do something different for a change, and took a day trip to see the Brandywine Battlefield site. It was about an hour drive from where I live. Luckily, it was a Sunday, otherwise it would have taken longer, due to traffic.

    I went into the city of Chadds Ford, and arrived at the Brandywine Battlefield historic site. This was near where the Battle of Brandywine took place in 1777 during the Revolutionary War (or the American War of Independence). This was where George Washington (or GW for short) led the American troops to fight against the British troops, led by William Howe. The British won this battle, and allowed them to overtake the capital, which was Philadelphia at the time.

    I arrived at the visitor center, where I would have to pay for both museum and house tour. The tour was about to start in minutes, so I had to get back to the car, and drive to the Benjamin Ring House. I got there, and was able to make it, right before the start of the tour.

    We were shown different rooms of the house, by a tour guide, who was really interesting to listen to. He really seemed to enjoy telling the history of the place, and the battlelines that happened. This house was the home of Benjamin Ring, a Quaker who sided with the Americans, and allowed GW to stay there and plan for battle.

    After the tour, I went back to the visitor center. First, I saw a film, which would have been the intro to the site. Then went to see the museum, which was small, and in 2 different rooms. After seeing all that, I went to another part of the park, to the Gideon Gilpin House.

    This house was currently going through renovations, so I did not go inside it. Not much was mentioned about Gilpin, but his home is the only original on the site that is still standing. It was visited by Major General Lafayette, a French man who would help the Americans during the war. But that visit happened much later, and not during the war. And there is a sycamore tree that has been there since 1787. And I was done seeing this place.

    I decided to go to Valley Forge next. But unfortunately, I did not have enough time to see it, since it got dark. So that entry will have to be another time, and possibly a combination of the 2 visits.

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  • 09Nov 2015

    42 Hiking Around Valley Forge 11/09/2015 USA —

    Valley Forge, USA

    Description

    I tried to visit Valley Forge Historic Park the night before, and was able to see the museum collection in the visitor center. But when trying to drive around the park, it just got too dark to see anything. So I decided to end it, and come back the next day, as I wanted to see the fall foliage.

    I always remember going to this park with my family for a picnic during the warmer months. Even enjoyed the drive to get there, as we would drive along the Schuylkill (pronounced "Skool-kill") River.

    The next day, on November 9, I arrived in the morning. First to the visitor center, where I picked up some maps and then went to see the short film. After that, I decided to do a 5-mile hike around the park, as I really needed to get some exercise.

    So I walked on the main trail, passing by some really nice, looking fall foliage, which was the leaves changing into bright colors. Just really nice to look at, as I also passed by the cabins, where some of the soldiers stayed. I did look inside one of them.

    I continued on, until I got to the National Memorial Arch. This was a memorial to George Washington and all the soldiers who spent the winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge. While not the coldest winter, the soldiers faced major shortages in food, medicine, and clothes, which led to disease. A lot of soldiers died due to starvation and disease.

    I would meet some people from other places in Pennsylvania, and had a friendly chat. Then resumed walking around, seeing some people putting Christmas lights on trees, going through a forest, and even seeing a deer.

    Then decided to take the "short cut", walking on a gravel road called the Baptist Trail Road. Not easy on the feet, but it saved a bit of time. I would pass by Artillery Park, which had a bunch of cannons lined up. This was in case of an attack from the British. And an old schoolhouse, which was not open, and nothing inside.

    I came onto pavement, and continued on, passing by the statue of General von Steuben, a Prussian officer who trained the American troops after the winter. This would prove very helpful for them when fighting resumed against the British. Then passed by another building and memorial, until I came to the Washington Memorial Chapel. Then went inside, to look around.

    While looking around, I had a friendly chat with the guy who was overseeing the place, and he would tell me some history and the story behind the place. More about all that in the review here.

    After walking around the chapel grounds, I resumed hiking, deciding to hurry up. Not much else to see for this part, as I arrived back at the visitor center. Not sure how long it took me, but probably around 4 hours, as I did make some stops along the way. I got back in the car, and drove around the park.

    I would drive to Washington's Headquarters, where Washington stayed during the encampment. It was open, and I did not need to see it on a guided tour, as previously thought. I walked through the buildings in the area, and walked around. After that, I resumed driving, looking for more fall foliage. But there was not much else, so I would leave the park, and head home.

    It was nice to visit this place, and do something different for a change. And I did get some exercise.

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