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Showing posts from 2008

Christmas 2008

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Merry Christmas

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Denmark and Sweden Pics

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This is for you, Sanja, the one and only (faithful) reader of my blog.
Denmark

Sweden

The Beatles Story

Liverpool has always been the synonym for the Beatles. No wonder then that we rushed to the Beatles Story first, eager to feel the goosebumps for being so close to the legends. But what a disappointment it was. It's way too ordinary an exhibition for those extraordinary lads.

Possible (and definitely subjective) reasons for its not living up to our expectations: We were told by the staff that 45 minutes were enough, so after having a Latte at Starbucks, we entered the museum at 5, which meant that we had a full hour for the tour. Imagine our surprise when the staff started rushing us towards the exit more than half an hour before the closing time. They were obviously in a hurry to close for the day. How could you enjoy it if they tap you on the shoulder and tell you to hurry up.

Reason two: Graceland. Hadn't we been on the Elvis tour, we might have been happier with the Beatles. In Graceland, you are perfectly aware of the fact that it's a rip-off, that it's tacky and t…

You'll Never Walk Alone

We left Glasgow before six a.m. and stopped in Carlisle for a Wetherspoon breakfast. The Citadel, with its two impressive towers, dominates the centre of the Cumbrian capital. Carlisle Castle is also worth a visit, as well as the Cathedral, which is the only cathedral in Cumbria.

Liverpool was our next stop. It took us quite a while, since the traffic got heavier as we headed further south. What the boys wanted to see first was Anfield Road. It was already two p.m. and there was no time left for dropping us at a shopping mall so we decided to join them on the tour of the stadium. But soon we were in a state of utter disbelief after being told that the tours were fully booked and there was no way we could get in. So what was supposed to be a leisurely spent afternoon, turned out to be an afternoon of bickering and squabbling over who should have booked the tickets up front and who should have known that the British kids were on Easter break etc, etc. Luckily, the shop and the Liverpool…

What if you are not into football

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The highlight of the trip for my boys was the match Scotland vs. Croatia. They were thrilled to be there and although the players didn't play as they hoped they would, it was spectacular.



Sanja, Iva and I discussed possible ways of spending the evening without our football fans. Restaurants and pubs were out of question, since they don't let kids in, which came as a huge surprise to my older son, who's used to going to pubs and having a pint of beer occasionally, in spite of the fact that he's under age.

It didn't take us long to decide what to do: shopping without haste in Ikea and the nearby shopping mall, the only place open till ten. It was not busy at all and we indulged ourselves with little somethings.

After it closed, we waited for a bus to take us to the center, but almost missed it because we were on the (il)logical side of the road. Luckily, we got on the right bus that was to take us to the corner of Hope and Sauchiehall, where our guys were supposed to …

Pics from Scotland

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Glasgow

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The lady at the Travelodge spoke Glaswegian. We could hardly make out what she was saying. She was nice enough, though, as to repeat three times until it dawned on us that in order to get to the centre, we should turn left at the third traffic lights. Or something along those lines.

Anyway, we got to the center quickly and easily. During our stay it was drizzling lightly but incessantly. But we were fine with it, since Glasgow is such an appealing city, one of those cities you take a shine to instantly. I found out I wasn't the only one who struggled with the pronunciation of its streets, such as Sauchiehall or Buccleauh. (Come to think of it, many Scottish names give me a hard time, take Milngavie or Culzean for example.)

We shopped on Sauchiehall Street, walked all round the city and saw many sights, such as the Cathedral, Provand's Lordship, which is the oldest house in Glasgow, the Hunterian Art Gallery, Kelvingrove, the Tenement House, George Square, the Armadillo, all of t…

Arriving in Glasgow

And finally we reached the destination of our trip. Glasgow awaited us with a light drizzle and heavy traffic on busy motorways - or is it dual carriageways? How should I tell the difference? Anyway, whatever it is, it's full of ramps and entrances and exits on both sides, - and what's more - all the time you're above the ground, driving over bridges and viaducts, or at least it seemed so to me.

It was evening when we finally got to our hotel. It was a Travelodge on Paisley Road, an unprepossessing little hotel, but who am I to complain for 29 pounds a night for the four of us. We never spend a lot of time in hotels when we travel anyway. Luxury is not an issue, what we need is just a clean place to sleep. And this was clean, although the sheets didn't have that fresh smell of being washed with a familiar soap powder. But as I said, the room was all right for the two nights in this modern city.

Falkirk Wheel, Stirling Castle and William Wallace

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It was a short drive from the Forth Bridges to the Falkirk Wheel. That's a boat lift, the one that revolves, and it's really awesome. It connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde Canal near the town of Falkirk. The level difference between the two canals is 35 meters, which suggests the hugeness of this rotating boat lift. Built in 2002, as part of the Millennium Link, it created an uninterrupted link between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. I'm sure this would be a pleasant cruise.

Mislav had a déjà vu experience on the spot. He was sure he'd already been there. He knew where the lift was, how it worked, everything. It was amazing. Back home, however, he was able to trace the sensation back to a power point presentation in a physics lesson.


Perched high on a rocky crag, Stirling Castle is an excellent example of Renaissance architecture in Scotland. In the esplanade, there is the statue of Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland, who defeated the English army…

The Forth Bridge

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If you google cheap eats in Edinburgh, you'll get a huge list of pubs, greasy spoons and restaurants. So it was there I found the Whetherspoon pubs. Our first Whetherspoon meal was in Edinburgh, fish and chips for 2.99, coffee or tea included. It was good, even my kids, who despise fish, liked it. It was also in one of the Whetherspoons that we had our first English breakfast. I tried black pudding for the first time, and must say it's delicious. Although blood sausage is a Croatian specialty as well, these two have nothing in common, but color, of course.

Anyway, it was after this fish and chips lunch that we left Edinburgh. Our first stop on the way to Glasgow was a little town of South Queensferry, famous for two beautiful bridges that cross the River Forth. One is the Forth Road Bridge, opened in 1964, and the other, more beautiful, is the Forth Rail Bridge, built in 1890. The latter is one of the most remarkable engineering wonders of the Victorian era, with its 2.5 km i…

Edinburgh

Here I go with some things that you can find in any travel book, but it's the teacher in me, and I can't help it.

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, lies on the east coast of Scotland. With a population of about half a million, it is the second most visited tourist attraction in Great Britain (after London). It's famous for the arts, especially in the summer when it hosts the renowned three-week Edinburgh International Festival, which was first started in 1947. It'd be great to come to Edinburgh at this time of year, since there are performances all around the town, not only in its theatres, but also on its streets. The Fringe is an alternative festival, started in the same year, when eight theatrical groups gate crashed the Edinburgh International Festival. What they wanted was to express their belief in freedom of expression in innovative and experimental performances. Today there are more than 40 Fringes around the world.

Princes Street, the main thoroughfare and a v…

Edinburgh, here we come

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Entering Scotland wasn't as glamorous as we expected and hoped it to be. There was no visitor center, no lay-by, no nothing. So we just stopped on the shoulder to take a quick photo of the signpost welcoming you to Scotland.

The road to Edinburgh took us by surprise, since it was just an ordinary country road. Somehow we missed the turn to Roslin, where we wanted to see Rosslyn Chapel, which we first heard of in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. However, we weren't too disappointed since: a) it was already dark; b) the chapel was closed; c) the admission was too high.

Soon we saw the lights of this city that I would find one of the most arresting I have ever been to. Our hotel, the Express Holiday Inn, was located in a beautiful old building in the very centre. Parking was dear, but it was worth it. Zoran and I couldn't resist and see the city by night despite the freezing cold. It was stunning and we couldn't wait till morning to see Edinburgh in all its glory and beauty.

The Lake District

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I'm really sorry I didn't manage to take a photo of one of the fields of daffodils in the Lake District. The one I uploaded in the previous post is nothing special, but it's the only one I have.


Anyway, the Lake District was fantastic. We stopped in Winderemere, such a picturesque little town. We strolled along its streets on a sunny afternoon and later we drove to the lake. Stunning! We enjoyed ourselves tremendously.


On our way further north, Google Earth suggested taking a scenic route. So we did and regretted it after only five miles. The road was not only getting steeper, but also narrower, in fact too narrow for our huge seven-seater. The twigs near the road started brushing the car, the hills in front of us suddenly became so uninviting, the sky darkened and there was sleet every now and then. Mladen and I wanted Zoran to turn back and take the proper road, so we nagged at him all the time. Poor Zoran stopped the car at something that we could call a lay-by and ther…

The Lakes

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I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

William Wordsworth, 1804

Manchester

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It was good we were in Manchester on Easter Monday, a bank holiday in England. Almost everything was closed at 9 a.m, the streets were empty and we found a parking space easily.

The dreamy city center seemed beautiful, with its amazing mixture of old and modern architectural styles. Its magnificent Town Hall was built in 1877 in an English Gothic style. Inside, there is a statue of General Agricola, the Roman who founded a settlement called Mancunium in AD 79. (Hence the people from Manchester are called Mancunians.) On the other side, there is the ultramodern Urbis, a ski slope-shaped building made of glass. In between, the old Royal Exchange and the new Arndale Shopping Centre.

Another area worth seeing is Salford Quays. It was also revitalized in the 1990s and today it comprises the Lowry Centre, an arts and entertainment complex, the Lowry Outlet Centre, the Manchester United Museum and the most striking building of all, the Imperial War Museum. Designed by renowned architect Danie…

England Again

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Great Britain - the decision was made quickly. With so many itchy feet in our household, it came as no surprise to our friends and family. The highlight of the trip was to be the football match between Scotland and Croatia in Glasgow - well, for the male travelers in our party. We, the ladies, decided to go shopping, since that is our favorite pastime activity.

But let me begin with our flight to London where the seven of us headed early on Easter morning. The flight was not full so we boarded the plane without any problems. To my boys' great delight, the coach of the Croatian national team was on the same flight together with his assistants. Of course, the autographs were asked for.

After landing in London we rented a Kia Sedona with seven seats. .
It's strange but the cars made for the European market are much smaller than the American ones. The trunk of our American seven-seater that we had rented in Georgia was almost double in size. Somehow we squeezed in the six suitcases a…

Tennessee Photos

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I've just uploaded photos taken in Tennessee, the Volunteer State.
Tennessee

More about Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga.

Graceland Photos

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Pics from Tupelo, where Elvis was born and Memphis, where he lived.
If you want, you can read my post on Graceland here.

Graceland

Atlanta Photos

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Read here about our visit to Atlanta.
Atlanta, Georgia

The Antebellum Trail Photos

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The Antebellum Trail

Read more about the Antebellum Trail here.

Photos from Augusta, Georgia

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The unexpected way home and outside corridors

As far as we know, things like this happen to other stand-by passengers, but this is the first time it happened to us.

The funny thing was that, when checking in, we were told by the airline employees at Atlanta Airport that the flight was overbooked, but we'd probably make it. So we proceeded with the customs and immigration formalities and then lightheartedly talked about this and that while waiting for our names to be called to approach the counter at the gate. There were also other stand-by passengers. You can easily spot them, as they are the only ones who openly show uneasiness before the flight - but not because of the fear of flying.

They were called to approach the counter; we weren't. Actually, we were, but only to be told that there were no seats for us. However, we were advised to wait until the boarding was completed. And then, all of a sudden, when I was least expecting it, they informed us they had two seats. It was momentarily decided that Dominik and I were fl…

The Antebellum Trail

Antebellum means 'before the war' and in the US it refers to the period before the Civil War, especially in the Southern States.

The Antebellum trail begins in Athens and ends in Macon, but the cities of Atlanta and Augusta are also included, maybe even some other, as well. On the one hand, it represents the romantic old south, but on the other, the fact that it was the time and place of slavery and abuse of human rights should never be forgotten.

We visited Madison, a quaint little city. In Milledgville we went for a short tour of Lockerly Plantation, which isn't so grand as Belle Meade. In Macon we visited the Indian mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument and in Eatonton we saw the Rock Eagle Effigy, which is supposed to have been built thousands years ago, but as usual, no one has the faintest idea why and by whom it was built.

Another interesting question that can be raised here is: What town did Sherman NOT burn? William Tecumseh Sherman was a Union general who burned …

Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga Choo Choo

All the way from Nashville to Chattanooga there are billboards announcing the thrills of Lookout Mountain. We arrived at about 4 p.m. and since it was too late to visit all the attractions, we opted for two out of four. The Incline Railway was the first. It is often called "America's most amazing mile" and with the 72.7% grade of the track near the top of the mountain, it certainly is the steepest passenger railway in the world. There are two cars, very similar to the Zagreb funicular, but with only one track so the cars pass each other in the middle. Amazingly enough, the drivers also switch at this point, but I still haven't figured out why. Maybe only one of the two likes the steepest part of the railway.

After the ride in this old-fashioned railway, we headed to Ruby Falls, America's deepest and highest underground waterfall. We were taken into the cave by an elevator, and then walked for about half an hour, admiring all those stalactites and stalagmites that …

Nashville

It took us a couple of hours to get from Memphis to Nashville. We had a travel coupon booklet with discounts for hotels, so Zoran picked a hotel near the Titans Stadium, not very far from Downtown Nashville. We arrived early in the evening and upon seeing how totally desolate this area was, we changed our minds. Finally we found a good, cheap room with breakfast at the Drury Hotel in the airport area, which was very close to downtown, and only 8 minutes to Opry Mills, a huge shopping mall, multiplex cinemas and restaurants, where we immediately headed. We wanted to buy swimsuits, since there was a nice indoor pool and a whirlpool at the Drury. But all we could find was one pair of swimsuits - they don't sell swimwear in winter.

Opry Mills is a new mall, opened only in 2000. Before that, for many years there stood a theme park, known as Opryland, a hotel, and Grand Ole Opry, that first started as a radio show back in 1925 and where country music artists have performed over the year…

Graceland and beyond

I admit, Graceland was the main reason for visiting Memphis.

I've heard of Memphis and its Beale Street many times before, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Maybe because it was a bleak, rainy day, and as there was a basketball match at the FedEx Forum, hoodied youngsters wanted to sell us tickets all along Beale Street. As to the Mississippi, yes, it is mighty, even mightier on such a gloomy day. There were no tours in January so we didn't have a chance to go for a ride. No Mark Twain experience, unfortunately. I shouldn't forget the Peabody Ducks, something I first heard of on the Fodor forums. Every day at 11 a.m. ducks march on the red carpet from the elevator to the marble fountain in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. At 5 p.m. they retire to their quarters on the roof, called the Duck palace. They are led by a person named the Duckmaster. It has been a tradition since 1932.

Now back to Graceland. I expected a tacky, cheesy place, but it exceeded my expectati…

A banjo on my knees and a little more

Sweet home Alabama was awaiting us together with a new time zone, Central, which is an hour behind Eastern time. At the Welcome center we were given travel coupons by a nice eldery lady, who recommended several hotels in decent areas of Birmingham. Driving on the I 20, we didn't have a chance to see much of Alabama, and it was dark when we arrived in Birmingham so, except the touristy area around the hotel, we didn't see much there either. In the morning we passed the city and soon crossed the border to Mississippi.

The Welcome center has been the best so far, so my kids, because complimentary sodas (and coffee as well)are offered to needy travelers. A friendly elderly lady was glad to answer all my questions on Tupelo, the town where Elvis was born and where he lived for the first 13 years of his life.

So we went to see this incredibly tiny little house, where he lived with his doting parents.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta reminds me of Baltimore, with a downtown full of skyrise buildings and the streets are rather dark, because of the lack of sun.

The World of Coca Cola was one of the must do things in Atlanta. It's a bit overpriced, but we enjoyed ourselves there, especially in the tasting room, where a hundred different drinks made by the company can be tasted. I tried about 20 of them and stopped before I'd feel sick. However, a very disappointing thing was to see the commercial "Give a little love" that ends with a chopper with the Yugoslav Army flag, the army that killed thousands of Croats and Bosnians. This part of the commercial was cut out in my country, and I just can't figure out how a company that promotes piece, equality, liberty etc. can be so blind and tolerate murders and vindicate the killers?????

Mixed reviews can be found on the Internet about the Underground Atlanta. We went to see it and were a tad disappointed. Although there were police officers arou…