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Vamos Ramos

Sue & Joe Travel the World

An Unplanned Journey

Easter Island

We had to cancel our bucket list trip to Santiago, Easter Island, and Patagonia again. This time it wasn’t because I was upset that the penguin viewing part of the trip was switched to visiting a vineyard. This time it was due to an unexpected trip to University of Michigan Hospital. Joe had a stroke. So now reality is no longer whether the third time planning this particular trip will be a charm but whether travel for us is possible at all in the future.

A trip to the emergency room via ambulance is nothing like flying to an exotic location. It’s a shock but not the good kind of shock you feel when you are sitting in a boat at dusk on the Ganges River watching cremated remains being spread by a grieving family and then adding your candle to the hundreds of others floating everywhere. It’s an uneasy feeling of entering the unknown and having to trust that the people surrounding you know what they are doing.

Ganges River

It’s a disbelief that something so unexpected has put not only a trip on hold but life itself. So what next. Well, we can take the first path and just check out or we can pull ourselves together and start on the second difficult path to recovery which hopefully will lead to exploring the world again.

We thankfully are on the second path. It’s a slow go. Staying 6 weeks in the hospital, relearning how to walk and use your arm and hand again is a difficult process. Months of therapy is a rocky leg of the journey. It’s proving to be a trip to a more foreign land than we’ve ever traveled. But, now that we are 5 months into this new reality we are trying to view life and travel with a new frame of reference. One of our guides in India told us that travel means suffering. That suffering is a part of travel that you must expect, accept, and embrace. We’ve recalled this wise piece of advice many times over the years and are thinking of it now as the road to recovery is trying our resolve and acceptance is difficult.

After expecting, accepting and embracing this difficult road to recovery, I’m not sure if camping in a yurt in Patagonia and hiking to view penguins will be our first adventure but it is definitely still on our bucket list. Wish us luck!

Patagonia

Curaçao

Since recent travel has been put on hold I have been thinking of the wonderful trips we previously enjoyed and thought of our trips to the beautiful island of Curaçao. As one of the ABC Dutch Caribbean Islands (Aruba and Bonaire) it is located just off the north shore of South America.

Beautiful beaches

We stayed at the Marriott Beach Resort on all 5 visits. On our last trip we were told the hotel would close for renovations so I checked on Trip Advisor and see it has reopened.

Marriott Beach Resort

So why Curaçao and why 5 times? Curaçao is quieter than Aruba, has lovely beaches with access to snorkeling, diving, waterskiing, swimming and hunting for crabs with flashlights at night, a beautiful town with a floating market full of vendors from South America as well as a fun shopping district in Willemstad with all kinds of hand-made items, souvenirs, restaurants, and the famous Queen Emma floating pontoon bridge that lights up at night. It connects Punda and Otrobanda quarters in the capital city.

Queen Emma Bridge

Two of my most memorable experiences makes travel our favorite way to enjoy life. The first experience happened just down the way from the Marriott while we were having dinner at a restaurant with seating on the beach. We were mesmerized when the ocean suddenly started to light up and the light kept coming toward the shore. The closer it got the more the lights looked like orbs. We held our breath and couldn’t imagine what was happening and then divers slowly emerged out of the water. It was a surreal way to find out there is such a thing as night dives.

The second experience was shopping the floating market with my husband. He was finding many fruits he had grown up enjoying in Cuba and hadn’t seen in quite a few years. Mamoncillo fruit also known as Spanish lime was his most treasured find but we also got mangos, papaya, and tiny bananas. The joy on Joe’s face when he was telling our daughters about how as a child he could find these fruits while he was out riding his bike with friends was priceless.

Mamoncillo fruit

More on Curaçao later.

Beijing China September 2018 


                                                       

We traveled to China with Odysseys Unlimited Tour through the University of Michigan Alumni Group. This turned out to be a win-win situation for anyone traveling to China without being able to speak the languages. How so…well, we enjoyed the company of our small group of fellow travelers and our Odysseys’ tour guide, Ping, could not have been better.  We saw everything we wanted to and much more!

     We opted to get our own Visas through an agency we have used before but we did have Odysseys book our flight so we had no control over the airline or schedule. We will change that decision for our next trip. It may have been just plain bad luck but our flights there and back were unpleasant to put it politely. The travel advisory was Level 2 but at no time did we feel threatened throughout the entire (almost 3 week )trip. 

     Our first stop was Beijing and we arrived in the middle of evening rush hour so we got to experience the unbelievable traffic and endless high rises which we passed in slow motion.  This was when I realized the China I expected to see was not China today! Unlike my husband, I was not prepared for Cosmopolitan China since my mindset was ancient China. We found both are exquisite.


                                                                              Beijing 

     The Hotel Wanda Vista Beijing is beautiful and close to Tiannanmen Square and the Forbidden City.   It’s only a 20 minutes or so drive from the airport in non-rush hour traffic. Bring your patience as always when traveling because it took us over 2 hours.


                                                     Wanda Vista Beijing Hotel

    Our first excursion was to Tiananmen Square which was packed with tourists from all over China. It was the beginning of the National Day Holiday. The first photo of flowers was taken in the Square and many real flowers were being planted for the celebrations to take place. The Monument to the People’s Heroes and the gate where Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 are located here.


                 Monument of the People’s Heroes and Tian’an Men with Mao Portrait  

   Nothing is done on a small scale in China and The Forbidden City did not disappoint.  We thought the outer court was stunning. Then we passed through the Gate of Supreme Harmony and stood in wonder of the architect. We were able to look at the living quarters of the Ming Empresses in the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. 


          Forbidden City:  Gate of Supreme Harmony, Chinese Lion, Roof Guardians

     On to the Great Wall tomorrow!!!

St. Petersburg, Russia 8/29/2017

Figuring out how to share our stay in Russia has been difficult but today I will show why St. Petersburg is called the Venice of the North. St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great. It is built on a series of islands spread over a wide area. 60 rivers and canals crisis-cross the City and are spanned by about 400 bridges. The principal waterway is the Neva River.







It truly is a spectacular city! Culture and history is coming up.

Helsinki, Finland 8/28/2017

Riding into Helsinki, Finland you see a skyline of contrasts…a giant Ferris wheel and the Uspenski Cathedral built in 1868. It is the largest Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe. 


The many canals and inlets had boats, boats, and more boats, docked and sailing among the many islands that make up the city of Helsinki.


Helsinki Cathedral known as Tuomiokirkko is a dramatic  white neoclassical building located on Senate Square plaza featuring a monument to Alexander II. The library is adjacent to the cathedral.


 

Driving through the city center I took a couple photos for my Finnish friends in th U.P. and the market street that is heated in the winter for shopping comfort!




On to Sibelius Park where there is an amazing stainless steel monument to the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. It is constructed with about 600 decorated stainless steel posts!


Last stop was the Church in the Rock which is blasted out of granite and capped with a ceiling made out of copper wire and 180 windows. It was astonishing!

Riga, Latvia 8/27/2017

Riga, the capital of Latvia was  founded in 1201. It is nicknamed “Paris of the Baltic” because of its buildings of remarkable Gothic, Baroque, Classicism, and Art Nouveau architecture. 



Our walking tour of Riga still has my head spinning. Our guide had so much information and was so entertaining that it was a memorable day….for fun…not retaining facts. Anyway, the city a is a mix of very old and very new with lots of restoration taking place. We passed in and out of the medieval city several times through gateways of the original fortified wall.


Our first stop was in the plaza where the first Christmas tree is said to have been decorated. It is marked by a medallion. The plaza is surrounded by churches and buildings that once held Guilds.


As we walked Old Town our guide told us many interesting stories, such as why this cat is facing a certain direction…or should I say the cat’s tail is facing a certain direction to prove a point the builder wanted to make. We also saw many statutes around the cobblestone streets that gave you good luck or granted you a wish if you rub it. I get 2 wishes granted but couldn’t reach the top animal on the Brahman statue for good luck!



I found this grasshopper doorway fascinating but Joe liked the other doorway for some reason.



This was one of the best tours we took! The city is spectacular.

Klaipeda, Lithuania 8/26/2017

After spending yesterday at sea, we were ready to explore our next stop, Klaipeda, Lithuania  which included a side trip to Palanga the home of Palanga Amber Museum. Amber is very important here and is considered the gold of the Baltic.   

The former estate of Count Feliksas Tiškevičius houses the museum. You reach it by walking through a lovely Botanical Park that serves as a grand entrance. There is a statue of a young girl with a snake that represents the legend of how amber became the “gold” of the Baltic. There are many duck-filled ponds with quaint bridges and is just a beautiful area in general.


The basement floor houses an archeological display of over 5,000 pieces of amber with an explanation of how each type is formed and what if anything was preserved inside of each piece. Magnifying glasses revealed flies, grasshoppers, beetles, tree needles and many more items perfectly preserved in amber. Jewelry and decorative items were also displayed.

 

The first floor is decorated with replicas of furnishings that aristocratics of the late 18th century with have in their homes. All but this one item, a container of some type, had been sold or removed from the home over time. The tapestry above features this container so it must have been important.


We were able to walk in the town area and have a strong cup of coffee at a local establishment and browse through the local market on the plaza.

We returned to Klaipeda and enjoyed a stroll through the charming town and discovered artwork such as this chess set scattered throughout the cobblestone streets.

Copenhagen to Berlin 8/23-24/2017

Copenhagen Denmark 

Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen is the winter home of the Royal Danish Family. It was originally built to accommodate high ranking aristocratics but after a fire destroyed their palace it became the Royal home. Four buildings surround a plaza area which is guarded by soldiers. One of the buildings is now a museum which allows visitors to see how the royal family lived and it also houses the Crown Jewels.


In Nyhavn Harbor sits the Little Mermaid statute. Han Christian Anderson’s story ends quite differently than the popular Disney movie. Such a small statue draws a huge crowd!



Berlin Germany
After traveling on the Oceana ship Marina overnight we arrived in Germany to take a motor coach to Berlin. The ride was approximately 3 hours and the countryside was mostly farmland. We briefly stopped at the Charlottenburg Palace which unfortunately was undergoing repairs and was closed.


We then traveled to Checkpoint Charlie where volunteers now man the booth. 


We saw several sections of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. One long section has been painted with murals by artists from all over the world. The walkways and roads have a double brick path which traces the actual length of the original Berlin Wall.


 

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most important monuments with over 200 years of history.


And of course some shopping and a cappuccino topped off the day on a high note.

Copenhagen 8/21-22/2017

Arriving at the Hotel Imperial Copenhagen after a long overnight flight from Detroit Metro with a close connection in Amsterdam feels great. We are glad to be back in Europe and looking forward to our pre-Baltic Cruise stay in Denmark.  Our Hotel is close to the Tivoli Gardens and a short walk to the busy city center.


Our half day excursion via motor coach showcased Danish Architecture and the expansion of Copenhagen. The Figure 8 complex was built for commercial use but turned into much sought after housing.



The next stop was at The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. The exhibit included five Viking Ships excavated in 1962 from Roskilde Fjord. They were part of a barrier constructed in the late 11th Century to protect the royal seat and cathedral at Roskilde. There were also reconstructed Viking Ships based on original, surviving ship finds.


We then drove a short distance to Roskilde Cathedral which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is unique and beautiful. Almost 40 kings and queens of Denmark are buried here.


After returning we walked along Hans Christian Anderson  Boulevard to a lovely Canal area named Peblinge So. Many people were boating and sitting on benches enjoying the afternoon sun.



Walking back to the City Hall Plaza we stopped for dinner and then went to take a photo of the statue of Hans Christian Anderson. Tomorrow we see the Little Mermaid statue.

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