Tag Archives: voyage

Sailing

The summer has been crazy gorgeous this year, and I’ve been finding different ways to go out and enjoy the sun.  It’s pretty easy to find things to do around Seattle, and one of my favorite parts about living here is all the water we live around.  I came across an Instagram account for a company on the Waterfront called We Sail Seattle, and booked an hour and a half sailing excursion.  I had an incredible time!  I even attempted to catch everything on my new GoPro, which I had never used before.  I still have a lot to learn about filmmaking.

There were about 35 people on board the sailing yacht on Saturday, including myself. As someone who suffers from chronic back issues, I should have been in line to board first to get a more comfortable spot on the boat. I ended up at the very front, which had its perks, but also its downsides. I had an amazing view of everything, but I was sitting cross-legged on a hard surface with no back support. I’m not complaining, by any means, but simply pointing this out to anyone who may also have issues.

The weather was beyond perfect!  Beautiful, blue skies, and tons of sunshine.  It does get a chilly on the water, so take a jacket, no matter what time of year you go.

I can’t say enough nice things about We Sail Seattle.  The crew and staff were very friendly, and I will gladly go on other excursions.  Visit their website at www.sailingseattle.com for their most current prices, schedules, and excursions.  I paid $36 for an hour and a half.  There’s also a 2 hour sunset sailing for a bit more, which I will definitely try out before the summer is over.

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Solo Trip To Stockholm

People often ask me if I’m ever afraid to travel alone.  The short answer is yes and no.  It can be a bit daunting to jump on an airplane and travel half way around the world, especially when you’re going to a country you’ve never been to.  Certain places are off limits as a solo traveler, in my opinion.  There are places where I would not feel safe going by myself, and would much rather have a travel companion or go with a tour group.  For instance, I would not want to explore Egypt on my own.  There has been conflict in Egypt, and that part of the world, and I just wouldn’t feel safe going by myself.

Stockholm is definitely not one of those places, though.  Everywhere I went in Stockholm, I felt safe.  I was still cautious of my surroundings, but I felt safe and secure nonetheless.  I guess I’m a bit selfish when it comes to traveling.  I want to have the freedom to start and end my day whenever I please, eat when I want to, and stop and take pictures without inconveniencing a travel companion.  I love using my camera to soak in all the beautiful sights so I can feed my memories for years to come.  I also want to share what I’m seeing with my friends and family.

I did plenty of research before I left for Sweden.  I watched tons of YouTube videos of other people’s voyages to Stockholm, read blogs and books, and talked with people who had been before.  Everyone commented at how safe the city is, and I immediately noticed this first-hand while I was there.  People would ride their bikes to work, for instance, and they would just leave them unchained outside their buildings.  No worries or cares of someone coming along and snatching them up.

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The streets were clean, and the people were friendly.  Not overly friendly, but always willing to help when I had questions or needed directions.  They even seemed happy to welcome me into their country, and would flash a huge smile when they found out it was my first time there.

Public transportation in Stockholm was a breeze.  It was super easy to get around the city by bus, tram, and ferry.  It’s also very easy to get around the city on foot.  Most of the tourist areas are compact and close together.  Walking, you may be more inclined to pop into a shop or attraction that you may have missed had you been on the bus or tram.

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I even felt safe in the evenings.  There seemed to always be large groups of happy Swedes shopping and tourists soaking in the sights, no matter what time of day it was.  Police officials were not far from reach either, which made me feel even more safe.

Does anyone have any suggestions of other places that may be perfect for someone traveling alone?  I’m thinking Tokyo might be my next solo trip.

Norwegian Air Shuttle

My trip to Stockholm was full of firsts for me.  Not only was this my first trip to Stockholm, but it was my first 787 Dreamliner and first flight with Norwegian.  I searched high and low on the internet, looking for reviews and videos that would prepare me for my first Norwegian experience.

Departure

I had originally planned to only travel with carry-on luggage since my flight from Seattle to LAX was early in the morning, and my flight to Stockholm didn’t depart until the evening.  Now that LAX has a connector from Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), I figured I could sit in the lounge to wait out the 5 hour layover.  I was booked in Norwegian’s Premium Cabin, which granted me lounge access.  Norwegian, however, does not allow mobile or online check-ins for flights to/from the United States.  I had to leave the secured area of the airport and wait 3 hours for checkin to open at the TBIT.  There isn’t much to keep one entertained on the check-in side of the TBIT.

Once check-in was opened, I dropped my bag and headed through security.  I headed immediately to the Oneworld Business Lounge and waited out the remainder of my layover.  I had a lovely salad, glass of wine, and relaxed before the 11 hour flight.

ONBOARD: Having watched a few video reviews of Norwegian, I already knew what to expect when I boarded the aircraft.  The cabin is light and airy, and the seats give you plenty of space to stretch out for the long flight.  I have to say, the 787 is an amazing aircraft, and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to fly on one.  The giant windows were fantastic.  I liked that there are no shutters, and you can still see out when the cabin crew have them blacked out for sleep time.  We hit a few bumps over Canada and Greenland, but the 787 really made everything smooth.  The aircraft is quiet too, compared to the others I had been on.

The seats recline a lot further than economy, but nothing compares to the lie-flat beds you find on other airlines.  The IFE comes out of the armrest, and when the people in front of you are reclined you’re pretty much stuck in your seat.  That is, however, unless you know your seat mate well enough to climb over them.  If I fly Norwegian again, I will be requesting an aisle seat for easier access to the lavatory and to get up and stretch.

A meal was served after we had been in the air for about an hour.  I had the beef, which was a bit dry, but still edible.  I had definitely had worse.  I opted for the chicken option on the way back, which was borderline terrible.

The cabin crew were very friendly; always happy to help and always with a smile.  I even overheard one of the flight attendants telling a passenger what a great company Norwegian is to work for.  It’s always nice to see/hear when people are happy with their jobs.

Return

I had a marvelous time in Stockholm, but I have one complaint.  The airport is HORRIBLE!  The check-in area is small and congested.  It’s very chaotic trying to maneuver through the crowds.  I found Norwegian’s check-in area, but was faced with a very long line of people.  I could see there was a separate line for Premium, however there was no sign and it was roped off.  I couldn’t tell if they were not allowing separate Premium check-in or if I needed to just let myself in.  I finally found a staff member willing to help, and he said I could just go right through.

The airport is not easy to navigate.  I searched for about 30 minutes for the lounge.  I finally found it, far away from Norwegian’s dedicated gates.  This lounge was HORRIBLE!  No plug-ins for electronics like most lounges have.  The seating was not comfortable.  Also, the food and drink selection was very substandard, compared to other lounges I’ve been in.  I spent about 10 minutes there, and made my way back toward my gate.  I had to go through Passport Control, and once through there I was restricted from moving around the airport.

Thankfully, Norwegian’s customer service is top-notch, otherwise I would have been in a terrible mood the entire way back.  The cabin crew were just as nice as the first leg of the trip, and they took very good care of me.  I even had the row to myself, so I didn’t have to climb over anyone to get to the bathroom.

Overall Experience

I am giving my Norwegian Air Shuttle experience 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I think they should offer a better Premium product, even if that means raising the price a little.  The food could be better too.  I also believe they should cut ties with Menzies, the company that runs the lounge at Stockholm Arlanda.  That was a terrible lounge, and I won’t take advantage of that privilege next time I’m there.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle sits in the quaint village of Windsor, which is just a short train ride west of London.  With just a quick change in Slough, you’re there in no time. It may seem like a hassle to leave London, but it is definitely worth it and not as difficult as you might think.  I had The London Pass, which not only granted me admission to the castle, but also got me from London Paddington to the village of Windsor.  I wasn’t sure if it included the return trip (it only mention the trip out to Windsor), so I just purchased a cheap ticket back into London when I was ready to go back.

Now, I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with the British Royal Family.  I greatly admire the Queen, especially, and would probably faint or die of a heart attack if I were to be invited to meet her.  Windsor Castle, for me, was a definite MUST for my trip to London.  My trip would not have felt complete.

First off, you should get there early.  I arrived about 15 minutes before the gates opened, and I’m glad I did.  I looked back, and there was already a huge line waiting behind me to get in.  Also, be sure to check that the Queen isn’t in residence, which you can do from her official website, or the Royal Collection.  With The London Pass, I received fast-track entry, and completely bypassed the lines.  Once through the entryway, I was immediately captivated by the breathtaking sight.  Perfectly clipped grass lead up to the medieval masonry of the walls that made up the castle.  The Union Flag flapped in the wind, and the clouds scurried away.  I walked down a pathway that immediately lead me to imagine the millions of people who had walked the same path since the middle ages.  IMG_1996Would Henry VIII have walked through here at one point?  How about Queen Victoria?  Perhaps, even my own idol, Queen Elizabeth II?  Did people in medieval times really dress like they were in an episode of Game of Thrones?  Oh, to be able to listen to the conversations that were had by the people who lived hundreds of years ago.

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After freezing and looking around the outside, I followed the cobblestone pathway past Saint George’s Chapel to the entrance of the State Apartments.  Sadly, photography is strictly prohibited in the interiors, so I only have my memories of this portion of my visit.  I was so amazed, however, that I doubt those memories will ever fade.  I was ushered into a darkened room where Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House sits.  What an amazing piece of craftsmanship!  The dolls’ house was definitely fit for a queen, and no detail was spared.  I’ve always had a fascination with miniatures, so this was right up my alley.

I moved through into the meat and potatoes of the tour: the State Apartments.  I was completely in awe of everything I saw.  There were suits of armor, priceless paintings and furniture, ornate details and designs.  I was overcome with emotion when I walked through these rooms.  I could imagine kings, queens, princes, and princesses walking through these corridors, dining at the tables, and lounging on the chairs and couches I passed by.  There was one table in particular that I passed by, which had a ring on it from a glass that didn’t have a coaster under it.  I could imagine that being caused by cheeky old Prince Phillip saying, “I don’t need a bloody coaster!”

I wonder what the castle is like from the perspective of a young prince or princess.

I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about Windsor Castle.  I could write for days and break the internet with my inane ramblings about it, but I won’t.  Windsor Castle should be on everyone’s list when they visit London.  If you have another hour to spare, here’s a great video about the castle and its history.  In the video, you will be shown the State Apartments, as well as Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.