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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Day 15 0f 40 - We Saw Top Gun - Maverick - in the London Olympics Mall

The FA-18 Hornet

Jennifer Connelly - Penny Benjamin

Tom Cruise - Maverick

MONDAY IN LONDON - It was a little rain and only 59 degrees. Lulu is just getting the cold I had for the last 5 days. We both tested negative for covid - so we figure we would do something indoors. During the London Olympics in 2012 - they built the Westfield Mall at the site of the games. It is a beautiful place with 5 levels of shopping with a gigantic movie theatre on the top floor. After a little shopping we decided to see TOP GUN - MAVERICK. We booked for the 3:15 show. Although we would have preferred the IMAX version they had in the Tallahassee Science Center - we were pleased with the smaller theatre of about 8 rows of seats. After struggling thru THE CORN IS GREEN - 3 days ago - I was in the need for speed. I did not want any mind numbing logic. Just hit me over the head with a story line. TOP GUN was up to the challenge. 35 years ago - we all enjoyed the first TOP GUN with Tom Cruise - Kelly McGillis - and F-14's. This time we got Tom Cruise - Jennifer Connelly - and F-18's. Also - we got 35 more years of better cameras - better computers - and better movie technologists. There is plenty of deja vu in the movie - and the action is fantastic. The movie has been sitting in the can for 2 years - waiting out covid. Money wise - it had the best opening weekend of a film ever - over $125 million worth of tickets. We paid 10 pounds each - about $12. It takes a lot of bodies to add up to $125 million. I loved the movie - it is fun seeing an old dog do new tricks. Tom Cruise did not disappoint. Jennifer Connelly played the role of a man's women - very easy on the eyes. Even the old F-14 returned to play a big part in the final outcome. Those that memorized the dialog from the first round 35 years ago - will enjoy "I'm switching over to guns." I will return to see it in IMAX - and also stop every time it is on TV to watch it again. Like most American men - I enjoy "shoot 'em ups" when no one is shooting back at me. When the perp has a gun - I'll wait 70 minutes in the hall for the SWAT team. I give TOP GUN two thumbs up. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Day 13 of 40 - London Saturday Afternoon Matinee at the Theatre - The Corn is Green

Nicola Walker plays Miss Moffat

You may remember Nicola Walker
for her work in Last Tango in Halifax
on TV

Saturday morning we woke up in our little flat at Flaxman Terrace less than a block from the British Library. After spending 9 days on a cruise ship - we were fully adjusted to the 5 hour time difference. For the next week this will be our home. We could not book our usual place by the FSU campus - this town is booked solid for the Queen's Jubilee this week. They are celebrating Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the throne. It seems just like yesterday when they crowned her for the first time in 1952. 

We had a light breakfast in our eat-in kitchen - then while I cleaned up a bit - Lulu went for a few groceries.  As we put the groceries away - she said she wanted to go see a play - The Corn is Green. She said it is sold out for the last 10 days before it closes on June 7th. My job was going to be to find 2 tickets for the 2 PM matinee - and it already is 11 AM. This is a job for Dirty Harry. 

Besides walking - the cheapest way around London is with an Oyster Card. It allows you to ride all buses and subways - keeping a running account. When it runs out of money - you top it up - like you top up your gas tank in a car. We already had cards from last year. We got on a bus to the National Theatre down along the Thames River. At the box office - we discovered the play was sold out - but when I showed my hearing aids and asked for front seats - they complied with 2 in row 10. We were in. They gave me the seats for 20 pounds each. We even had an hour to go to Tesco and get a few theatre snacks. 

Our seats were excellent. The place was packed. To my surprise the National Theatre is quite modern. The seats were well-padded. 

The Corn is Green is a long play with an intermission. 3 hours total. I had read a little bit about the story hoping to be able to follow along. Here's the plot. Basically a spinster lady decides to move to the mining country of Wales. She is planning to educate young miners to prevent them from having to spend their lives in the mines. She spends a lot of work on Morgan in this play - he excels and later goes to Oxford. Where does the corn come in? Well - according to Lulu - I could not understand a thing - Morgan was going to start a farm  and get out of the mines that way. I am guessing his going to Oxford was a metaphor for the farm. He became a success - and the teacher stayed there and help more students get out. 

Again - I am hard of hearing - and the Welsh accents were difficult for me.

Lulu reminded me - my Dad worked in the Number 8 Mine in Coaldale PA for 25 years. When I was born - he bought a farm 10 miles south of the mine. He tried to be both a miner and a farmer at one time. He tried it for 10 years with little success. That farm - was his The Corn is Green. We moved to town - I went to good schools - my parents made sure I went to college. 

We stopped at O'Reilly's Pub for supper. It was packed with fans ready for the Liverpool v Madrid soccer game. Busy as they were - the pub set a table and served us a Steak and Guiness Pie for supper. 9 years before - Jan and Dickie Davis entertained us at that pub. They were old friends from Tamaqua PA. It all felt like home. Old friends are the best friends. 

My corn is green.. 

Dick Davis - Harry - Jan - Nancy
9 years ago we reunited in O'Reilly's

We live in a Terrace Block just across 
the street from the British Library

We got ticket to The Corn is Green.
Lulu promised a funny goofy play in return. 

It looks like a little camper but it is a food truck. 

This old royal hospital was for children and women.
Call the midwife. 


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Day 10 of 40 - Unloading Coal - Gdansk Poland

Unloading coal from ships into train cars

Wonderful pirogies in Gdansk

We took cab from
Gdynia to Gdańsk

Wednesday - we spent a short day in Gdansk - Poland. It is on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. At one time it was declared a free city - now it is a major shipping port of Poland. 

My teacher friend - Jim Szczecina - was Polish. His name is hard to spell in America - but it is a common name here - even a city is named so. Jim was a fun guy to work with - the kids loved him. He used to always say - it is hard being Polish. 

Our cruise ship pulled up right next to a pier that was used as a major coal loading and unloading break of bulk point. We even got a little coal dirt on our shoes as we embarked for Gdansk. We were actually in a smaller city - Gydnia - Gdansk was about 25 miles down the coast. We got a slow start - many of the other cruise passengers had gotten off at 7 AM - we did not get moving until 10. We decided to take a cab to downtown. We were not thinking properly or we would have used an uber car. Our upscaled taxi cost $110. 

Poland still uses coal to make 75% of their energy. Coal is an inexpensive and efficient fuel - except that it is the worst carbon dioxide polluter. 

During World War II - Gdansk was invaded 3 times. The Soviet Union came from the east - the German Nazis came from the west - and finally the Allies came from the north. Poland ended up losing many people during the war - and being a satellite of the Soviet Union. Then around 1989 - labor unrest in the Gdansk shipyards started a revolution that help destroy the Soviet Union. Today Ukraine - with the help of the Poland and the USA - is trying to push the Russian army out of Ukraine. 

In Gdansk - we enjoyed a traditional lunch of perogies at a street restaurant. We had to rush back to the ship around 3 PM. We hired an uber car - and the fare to the ship was $19. Yes - $110 in one direction and $19 in the other. We must learn always to check uber first. 

Thursday was spent all day cruising. Friday morning we left the ship in Copenhagen. We flew to London - and spent Friday night in our London Airbnb apartment. 

This was from our ship balcony

We walked down that alley to town. 

Some museum posters

Hitler youth

Polish WWII Museum

Downtown Gdańsk

A veyr nice local meal

This was a golf car that sat 12

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Day 9 of 40 - Visby on Gotland Island - The Sunniest Place in Sweden

The walled city of Visby

The Island of Gotland

We just had a glorious beautiful 66 degree day in Visby - the sunniest place in Sweden. Our ship pulled in around 7 am - we had breakfast - and prepared for our 1.5 mile walk into downtown. It was a mild climb and soon we were winding through the narrow meandering streets. Visby is a hot summer destination for the mainland Swedes. 

We had lunch in the modern downtown - which was above and and outside of the old medieval walled city. It took over 100 years to complete the roughly 50 foot high walls. It was to protect the people from their enemies. It doesn't make sense by today's standard. After spend 40 years building a wall - and no one attacks you - how do you keep the workers building for another 60 years? I don't know - but they did. Today - thanks to modern weapons and airplanes - the wall is virtually worthless except for tourists to gawk at. Since only a small portion of the modern town is inside this wall - that area has become and exclusive place for summer tourists to live. The city and island have all the modern conveniences - shopping center - airports - highways - cars - universities. 

On this cruise - it is hard to pick places you liked the best. If you like isolation - this place is for you - if you don't mind about 100 cruise ships a year stopping and gawking. Most of the passengers do not go farther than 2 to 3 miles in any direction. The island it over 100 miles long. 

From here - we got to Gdansk Poland - Hamburg Germany - Copenhagen Denmark - and then we fly to London - England. 

We will pull out of here around 5 pm. We are safely back on the ship - one hour early. 

Shopping in modern Visby

Max Burgers

Lovely high pitched homes

Visby city gate

Wood Hewn Homes

Limestone Visby Cathedral

Altar art

Tulips at 57 degrees north

Hundreds of the bunkers defended
against the Nazis and Russians

This tiny Austin of England caught my eye. 
Tiny cars were built after the war
due to rationed gasoline. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Day 8 of 40 - Two Days in Lovely Sunny Stockholm Sweden

Yesterday - we cruised across the Baltic Sea from Estonia to Sweden. We were not ready for the lovely cruise through the Stockholm Islands. It must have gone on for the last 6 hours. Along the islands and the main coast - it was just endless beautiful scenery of homes - towns - ferries - estates - and boats. We were going very slowly - maybe 5 to 10 miles per hour. It was an excellent preview of the splendid city. 

Stockholm has about 1 million people - 2.5 million in the metropolitan area. It is the flagship of Scandinavia.  Its organized roots trace back to the 1200s and the Vikings. It has a harbor that meanders through the city. Last night - we took a cab into town. It is about 1.5 miles to the downtown from our ship. Lulu realized she was missing a very important prescription. So we found a doctor open on Sunday night at 8 pm - he did a consolation - prescribed her the meds - and then we went to a 24 hours pharmacy. Lulu is also now registered in the Sweden National Health Program. They gave her a card. 

We bought a 24 hour bus pass on the way back - a bus dropped us off right by the ship. 

Monday morning Lulu had a list of things to see. First we took the bus and tram to city hall. This is where they award the Nobel Prizes every year. The city hall is a really old all brick building. Inside is the blue hall where the awards dinner takes place. Several American Nobel Peace Prize winners are Barack Obama - Jimmy Carter - Al Gore - Henry Kissinger. It is over $1 million now. Ironically - Alfred Nobel earned his money making dynamite. His fortune grows after his death and awards the prizes. 

After that we had lunch downtown in a park - and did some shopping. Sweden is a very progressive country. It could be called a socialistic democracy. They also have a monarch. There are lots of electric cars. They make much of their power with falling water. They have national medicine - and one of the highest standards of living in the world. Their money is the Krona worth about 10 cents. 

We were lucky to have bright sunny days with highs in the 60s. Since we are 60 degrees north latitude - the days in the summer are very long - and the winters are cold and bleak. You can tell their architecture is designed toward frigid climate. 

Next - was the ABBA Museum. Everyone remembers this pop music groups from the 70s and 80s. It is made of two married couples - that set records for selling their music - they dressed in flamboyant costumes - and had a very strong cult following. They are in the their 70s now - and still produce music and video - but no longer tour or perform. Lulu was dead set on seeing the museum - she even had purchased ticket online ahead fo time because in the summer the museum sells out. It is not designed to handle big crowds. 

Lastly - we visited the wooden ship Vasa. In 1628 - around the time of the Pilgrims - the king ordered a giant war ship to be built - 220 feet long - with 60 cannons. It was built in the harbor in Stockholm. They were fighting Poland and Estonia at the time - so the king ordered the ship to the front. Unfortunately - the cannons made it top heavy - and at first wind it did not clear the harbor. It tilted over - and water started running into the cannon ports - and down it went in 100 feet of water. It sat there almost 400 years - the cold water preserved the wooden ship and even several skeletons of the crew. In the 1950s - they started bringing it to the surface. They built a giant museum to house the ship - and are continuing working on it. It has become one of the main symbols of Sweden. It reminds me of the Neo-confederates in America worshipping the side that lost the war. Why celebrate a ship that cost a fortune - and only made it one mile. - and sank. In the information film - they ended with the quip - "if the ship hadn't sunk when it did - we would not have it today."

After - we toured the ship museum - we had to get back to our ship by 4:30 pm. We were cutting it close. We noticed a water taxis - and said we had to get to our ship right away. What a nice ride that was! In minutes he stopped by our ship - dumped us off - no charge - plenty of time to spare. 

I am quickly typing this up - to post it before we lose Internet.