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Travel 2016: Day Fifteen – Back to the USA

Time to say goodbye to Europe and head home. Whirlwind trips like this are so rewarding and overwhelming at the same time. Here, on the last day, I was full of mixed feelings: sad it was over, anxious to see my pups, and needing a vacation to recover from vacation. But– what an incredible experience!

Bernini columns surrounding St. Peter's Square.

Bernini columns surrounding St. Peter’s Square.

When I got up, I walked back over to St. Peter’s Square. The sun was rising as I watched the nuns and clergy making their way to work. People were already lining up at the Holy Door, waiting for the first service at the Basilica.

I just took a moment to breathe it all in….. Absorb it….. Memorize it….. Knowing it was time but not quite ready to file it away.

The four of us had breakfast (Michael, Mary, George and I)– which opened a little late– causing us a bit of a rush before our transportation to the airport arrived.

By the time we got our luggage downstairs, our transport was waiting for us. I took one last look at the grand columns surrounding St. Peter’s Square as we climbed in the van, bidding Rome a fond farewell. Ciao!

We got to the airport quickly and easily, then said our last goodbyes to George and Mary. (In all likelihood, we wouldn’t see them again for seven months– in Paris!) Then we proceeded to get checked in and head to our gate.

Everything was pretty much on time. We got settled in on the plane and shortly after take off, I watched the tearjerker, Me Before You. I thought it was really well done. It’s one of those sad, schmaltzy, romantic films that can easily be done wrong– but it kept its edge and believability throughout, without getting too sappy.

Over the course of the ten hour flight, I dosed on and off. My head was full of all the places we’d been. Growing up I’d never thought I’d ever see the world like this.

When we arrived at O’Hare, we breezed through customs with our Global Entry clearance and the new, automated ‘self serve’ kiosks that definitely sped up the process.

Peggy had picked the kids (Belle & Dudley) up from their vacation– and took them home before she came to get us. If she hadn’t, we’d have had to wait two more days (Monday) before we could get them.

We pulled in the driveway and it was overflowing with fallen leaves– just the first reminder of all the fall projects still ahead.

We were home.

Looking back, Michael and I had shared another truly amazing journey. We’d expanded our travel log: adding 5 West End shows, meeting nearly a dozen Broadway pros, visited 4 more countries and 18 cities, in addition to sailing the Mediterranean Sea. And– we still have so much more of the world to experience! We made new friends, created memories with old friends and had a thoroughly wonderful time.

I can’t stress enough the value of traveling and seeing the world. The history, different cultures and most important– seeing how others live and adapt– really help put the big picture in perspective.

 

(Original Travel Date: October 1, 2016)

VIDEO: Eighteen Days in South East Asia with Mike & Jeff

I finally finished the video montage of our South East Asia trip with Broadway On the High Seas 5 through Playbill Travel in November 2015. You can watch it here but I highly recommend watching it full screen to get the full effect of the incredible scenery.

 

 

 

If you haven’t already read my daily blog posts from the trip and want to know more– start reading my previous posts at the end of October 2015.

I hope you enjoyed it!

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor

Southeast Asia Travel Day Three: We arrived at the beautiful Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor at 11 AM, November 1st, not expecting to be able to check in until 4 PM. We’d packed a carry on so we could use the pool while we waited– but as luck would have it, we were able to check as soon as we arrived.

IMG_1554The historic 5-star hotel first opened in 1932. It welcomed the beginning of travelers coming to the region to visit the ancient Angkor temples.

It is situated on 15 acres which includes several classic French gardens and boasts the largest swimming pool in Cambodia.

We couldn’t have selected a better place to call home for the three days we’re in Siem Riep. Everything about it is classic. It has the desired modern amenities while maintaining all of its original, traditional charm.

The entire staff is very friendly, helpful and perfectly accommodating. They truly go out of their way to make you comfortable and welcomed. It’s a luxurious experience without the pretense.

We checked in, briefly settled into our room; then did a little exploring of the grounds before returning to our room for a much needed nap.

Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

 

Raffles pool is the largest in Cambodia.

Raffles pool is the largest in Cambodia.

 

The working, vintage lift.

The working, vintage lift.

 

Our Room facing the balcony.

Our Room facing the balcony.

 

Our room in the original 1930's building of the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Our room in the original 1930’s building of the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

 

The view from our balcony.

The view from our balcony.

Friends: I Take You With Me

To All My Friends:

I take you with me.

Though we may not share every moment of our lives,

Though years may pass without our sharing a single day,

I take you with me.

You are with me, and you are loved.

 

IMG_1376Michael and I have already mentioned, probably more than a dozen times, people in our lives, past and present, that we’ve thought of on our trip. You see, friends, you are always in our hearts and minds.

 

People I meet, share time with, develop relationships with– impact me daily.

 

Even thousands of miles from home I can’t help but think of many people along the way.

 

*Walking the streets of Old Town in Stockholm, I immediately thought of Gay and her love of European life and culture. I pictured her here, remembering all the many students she exposed to the world with her many trips to Europe.

*When we visit Danzig, how will I not think of my cousin Ginger, whose character in the musical RAGS escaped from there?

*When we visit the Stutthof Concentration Camp, how will I not have my friend Kathy, close in my thoughts? She and I shared a close bond and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and the importance of telling the stories to future generations.

*How will I not think of Jason after our frequent Patti LuPone conversations, while she performs on our cruise?

Yes, my friends, I have brought you all with me. I carry you with me every day of my life. Your impact and importance in my life goes far beyond the times we might have shared or the experiences we encountered. I think of you often.

Rejoice and celebrate every connection you make. You’ll be surprised how sometimes the most unexpected people influence you the most.

Stockholm

We arrived in Stockholm late afternoon Saturday and after checking in to the Sheraton Stockholm, decided to just set out to explore the city with no clear destination. We were both pretty exhausted after the long flight but quickly got our second wind and set out to experience our new surroundings.

Stockholm is such a beautiful city full of history and art. For all the people out and about, it was still so quiet and relaxed. Old Town is full of the charm and quaint beauty I hoped to experience on this trip.  There are so many squares and open areas just to sit and relax and take in the ambiance. Old Town is full of restaurants, bars and unique shops; combined with the eclectic mix of people, giving it an artsy, romantic vibe. I think I might have found the second place in the world I’d like to live (after NYC).

If we had a little more time here, I’d definitely be heading back to one of the squares, just to sit, read, and take it all in. It’s just beautiful here.

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Dream Vacation Itinerary: Broadway On the High Seas

Michael and I celebrate our 20th anniversary in September and are ready to leave on our dream vacation to celebrate. I didn’t know anything about it until March. Michael wanted it to be a surprise but knew (or thought) we’d have to be sure I could take off work to go on the trip. Well, that’s not a problem now… and we’re all packed, extremely excited and ready to go.

By the time this posts, we should already be in Stockholm where we’ll have some time to sightsee before boarding our Baltic cruise on the Regent Seven Seas cruise line. This is a special sold out cruise (only 700 on board!), half of the passengers signed on for the Broadway On the High Seas tour which will feature special activities and performances by Broadway greats Patti LuPone (Evita, Anything Goes, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy), Howard McGillin (Broadway’s longest- running Phantom), Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess) and all things NYC and Broadway– Seth Rudetsky.

Due to data rate and internet costs, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to post or share while we’re overseas but I wanted to share a little advance taste of our next two weeks.

Here’s our itinerary:

CRUISE ITINERARY

SUN 04AUG13 Stockholm, Sweden 06:00 PM

MON 05AUG13 Turku, Finland 09:00 AM 05:00 PM

TUE 06AUG13 Helsinki, Finland 08:00 AM 06:00 PM

WED 07AUG13 St. Petersburg, Russia 08:00 AM

THU 08AUG13 St. Petersburg, Russia

FRI 09AUG13 St. Petersburg, Russia 06:00 PM

SAT 10AUG13 Tallinn, Estonia 08:00 AM 03:00 PM

SUN 11AUG13 Klaipeda (Memel), Lithuania 12:00 PM 08:00 PM

MON 12AUG13 Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland 07:00 AM 02:00 PM

TUE 13AUG13 Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany 08:00 AM 10:00 PM

WED 14AUG13 Copenhagen, Denmark 06:00 AM

OUR TOURS

Turku Castle, Naantali & Ruissalo 05AUG2013 Turku, Finland 10:00 AM

Walking Tour Of Helsinki 06AUG2013 Helsinki, Finland 09:15 AM

Classical St. Petersburg 07AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 08:30 AM

An Evening Of Russian Ballet 07AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 06:45 PM

Peter The Great’s Grand Palace – Peterhof 08AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 07:45 AM

St. Petersburg Cathedrals 08AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 02:00 PM

The Hermitage, A Wealth Of Art And History 09AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 09:00 AM

Canal Cruise And Shopping 09AUG2013 St. Petersburg, Russia 02:00 PM

Upper Town And Rocca Al Mare With Folk Show 10AUG2013 Tallinn, Estonia 08:45 AM

Fairy Tales & Legends Of The Witches Hill And Amber Bay 11AUG2013 Klaipeda (Memel), Lithuania 01:30 PM

Private Tour Stutthoff Concentration Camp 12AUG2013 Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland 09:00 AM

Echoes Of The Past – Jewish Heritage 13AUG2013 Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany 07:30 AM

Whether I can post while we’re gone or have to wait until we get back, I’ll have plenty of pictures and stories to share!