Oslo.

I’ve always wanted to come to Norway. Maybe it’s for simplistic or childish reasons, but ever since I first went to the Norway pavilion at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and rode Maelstrom (RIP) and watched the film presented by the tourist board of Norway this country has been at the top of list of places to go.

Oslo is a unique place. While not as large as London or as sprawling as Paris, it has a feel to it that is hard to convey. The architecture is stunning.

The street art is abstract.

The history is deep.

The culture is vivid.

Oslo is a notoriously expensive city, and I can testify that it lived up that reputation. However, the experience of being in this city and to fulfill a dream that I have carried for 20 years was worth every krone. Certainly, there are other areas of the country I want to see as my short time here did not afford me an opportunity to go see the fjords of Norway’s west coast. My budget also constrained me from seeing all the sights within Oslo that were available. My time here has been peaceful, though, and that is what I will take with me above all else.

Thank you, Oslo. I hope to return here soon. That’s all for now. I’ll catch up with you again in Paris.

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First Half: Favorite Photos

Today’s update will be short and sweet. The first half of my adventure is coming to a close. Tomorrow is my last day in Edinburgh, and on Thursday I’ll be boarding a plane and heading for Oslo, Norway to kick off the second half of my adventure. Over the last two weeks as I explored England, France, and Scotland I have seen and experienced some absolutely remarkable things. Sights that were only images on postcards and news clips became reality. I stepped into history, and I entered into Hogwarts. These last two weeks have been nothing short of extraordinary. Today, I simply want to share a handful of my favorite photographs with the hopes that you’ll enjoy them and, perhaps, gain a taste for adventure and travel. Thank you for following along with this adventure. I truly appreciate you.

A Trip to St. Andrews

There are certain spaces in sports that are hallowed and sacred. Football has Lambeau Field. Baseball has Fenway. Basketball has The Garden. Each space holds moments that are memorialized by newsreels and the minds of those who have been and witnessed the superhuman feats accomplished by those who took the grounds. Every team loves their field and fans love their home turf…but some places are just different.

Golf is the same. There are certain courses that are cathedrals. Augusta. Pebble Beach. Royal St. George’s. But one two words rise to the top for any golfer: St. Andrews.

St. Andrews is heralded as the home of golf, and the history of this majestic course dates back roughly 900 years (according to Iain, my official tour guide), and Mary, Queen of Scots is documented as having played a round there during her reign. This space where Old Tom Morris roamed, where legends like Bobby Jones, Jack, Arnold, and Tiger have all competed is, in every sense of the word, hallowed ground.

The train ride from Edinburgh was roughly an hour long, and the tour itself lasted only 75 minutes. However, there was just something about seeing 18 on the Old Course. To be able to stand on the Swilcan Bridge was worth the ride alone.

It is hard to quantify the value of St. Andrews for the average traveler. For those who don’t appreciate the game of golf, the trip up might not be worth it. For those who love the game, who have experienced its highs and lows, who have sworn it off after 17 tough holes, only have their passion for the game saved by a birdie on 18…this is a experience that must be had.

Edinburgh, part 1.

Rather than bore you with nonsensical ramblings, today I simply want to share some of the photos I took today of this ancient city. Some views are from Edinburgh Castle. Some are from random streets looking at other random streets. Ultimately, each is a look at this stunning city from a different perspective. Much more could be said, and tomorrow’s visit to St. Andrews will, I think, yield more excellent sights and stories. Simplicity and minimalism are good sometimes, through, and I hope you enjoy them.

The Highlands

Oftentimes words are inadequate to describe experiences. We do the best we can, but ultimately, language has its limits. Today, as I toured the Scottish highlands (Edinburgh -> Inverness round trip), I felt this struggle. How do you ultimately convey how a site that literally leaves you breathless makes you feel?

Rather than drone on and on, I’ll keep this short and simple. The bus ride was quite long (9.5 hours total time in the coach), but standing in the midst of Glencoe and on the shores of Loch Ness gave me a sense of something more. Something greater. Something outside of myself. A touch of the divine, if you will. These amazing landscapes that have been here long before us and will (hopefully) be here long after us…they brought out something deep within me. These simple words fall woefully short, so I hope you enjoy these photos. As always, thank you for reading and following along with this adventure. I appreciate your support.

Eiffel.

One thing I’ve learned thus far on this adventure is to be patient and enjoy where I am. Lines aren’t always bad, as oftentimes the thing at the end of the line is worth the time it took to get there. This is the story of my visit to the Eiffel Tower.

The Louvre. Notre Dame. The Siene. The Eiffel Tower. Certain places evoke images of classic Paris. Images of a more romantic time period that Hollywood has been infatuated with for decades. Images that are more famous than the actual places themselves. These places must be seen, however. They must be experienced in order to be believed.

My total time in Paris was short (only 5 days), with two is those being tied up by day trips out of the city. I had very little in the way of hard plans and reservations, meaning that waiting would be a part of my experience in Paris. Such is the nature of things.

The journey to the Eiffel Tower began with a wait to get through the security gates. One thing I have noticed in my brief time in this city: Parisians take security very seriously. Given the events of the last 10 years, this isn’t a surprise, nor is it a bad thing. Following the wait to get through security, the wait to actually purchase the tickets began. The sign advertised a two hour wait, but in actuality it was closer to an hour and fifteen minutes. A small price to pay for such an experience. Regarding actually monetary expenditure, it was €16,30 ($18.13 USD) to go to the second floor of the tower (the summit was closed today). The summit was the ideal, but this was another result of not booking in advance. Pre-booking, if possible, is the way to go.

The elevator ride to the top of the tower is packed, as they get as many patrons into each lift as possible. Grabbing a spot by one of the windows provides a view of the city as the ascent is made, making the ride more than a mere form of transportation. The view from the second floor of the tower is simply stunning, though that phrase alone does not do the view justice. The view provides an excellent look at the way Paris is laid out, as it spirals out towards the outskirts from its center. It is thoroughly captivating.

The actual observation deck itself is hard to navigate, as this icon of Paris is rightfully crowded. Though I ducked and weaved around a number of photos, I’m sure I’m an unexpected subject in a number of random family photos. Such is a hazard of visiting prime spots for photo opportunities. Boutiques and cafès comprise the inner area of the second level, a perfect spot to grab a macaron or glass of champagne as you take in the sprawling city.

It is rare in life that the actual thing lives up to the mental ideal that has been constructed. Happily, the Eiffel Tower was one of those things. In fact, it far surpassed every expectation I had built. It took a bit of time to get to where I wanted to go, but the investment was well worth it. Do yourself a favor and see the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be glad you did.

That’s all for France. I’ll see you in Scotland.

Memorial Day in Normandy

It has taken me a few days to decide to compose my thoughts on Normandy. There are certain experiences and moments that come along in life that alter your perceptions of the past. Much like many of the best moments in life, these moments come by happenstance and coincidence. They can’t be planned. Rather they must be embraced when they come.

Monday was such a moment. Over the course of planning a trip through Europe, France was a stop that had to be made. The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and the Arc de Triumph were all spots that required a planned stop in order to enjoy the history and culture offered. However, an extended stay in Paris also afforded the opportunity to take a day and make the trip out to Normandy and step into scenes that were previously reserved for textbooks and Saving Private Ryan. As we picked the date to make the trip, coincidence intervened: I would be visiting Normandy and all the associated sites relating to D-Day on Memorial Day.

This isn’t meant to be a review of the city itself, though that could be offered. It’s a sleepy little coastal town, like many throughout France and the rest of Europe. On June 6, 1944, history just happened to arrive on the doorstep of this town, though. There are restaurants and bars, cafés and creperies dotting the streets. Playgrounds and bicycle paths are frequented by those who call this town home. But on the day of my visit, it somehow felt different. Starting with Arromanches and moving to the American Cemetery at Normandy, Omaha Beach, and Point du Hoc, the past came alive.

It is hard to adequately describe the feelings that washed over me as I stood in the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, surrounded by the final resting place of so many who gave the last full measure of devotion. Those who had their whole futures ahead of them, yet answered the call to serve when it sounded. It is laughably simple to say, but I felt grateful. Grateful that they did what they did so that I wouldn’t have to. Grateful that they did what they did so that I would be free to hop on a plane, fly across the ocean, meet a Hungarian tour guide, ride in a Ford from Paris to Normandy, and stand where they charged. I was, above all things, grateful.

May 27, 2019 and June 6, 1944 are separated by nearly 75 years. That’s 27,384 days. 657,216 hours. 39,432,960 minutes. 2,365,977,600 seconds. Yet, on that day, standing on the sand of Omaha Beach, it had never felt closer. We still hope and dream. We still love and laugh. We keep our faiths and love our families. We still remember.