I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home from Ukraine

Our flight home from Ukraine via New York started off with a bang as I was asked at the ticket counter by a person with an ugly tone once again..."Why do you have paper tickets?". I promise if I ever hear the words "paper ticket" again, I think I will scream! Our travel was fairly uneventful until the last leg from Atlanta to Monroe which was delayed for mechanical reasons. This was the same flight that was delayed and started all of our travel woes. The happy news is that we were met at the airport by a very happy Minson family carrying welcome signs. My wonderful husband was also there with the very best of hugs and kisses for me.

On a side note... I will never purchase tickets from Expedia again and will never choose Delta as an option for flight unless I have no other choice.

Despite all of the travel problems, this was a very rewarding trip for me and an experience I won't soon forget.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Day in New York and Then Home

Our hotel in New York
The Wonderful Beds
Roses and Chocolate from Guess Who
This sculpture once stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center. It now resides in Battery Park with an eternal flame in memory of those who lost their lives in the Trade Center Attack
The Statue of Liberty from Battery Park
My favorite place to buy muffins in the Union Square Market

Deanna's beautiful hot chocolate

Syringes filled with chocolate for that desperate moment

The Chrysler Building
Rockefeller Center
Tons of Yellow Cabs
Central Park
Bow Bridge...Central Park
Bethesda Fountain...Central Park

Times Square

We arrived in New York City at JFK airport in the early afternoon. It took over an hour to get our bags. Once we had everything we caught a yellow taxi to our hotel, The Hampton Inn Manhattan-Times Square North. Our very thoughtful husbands welcomed us to our room with red roses and Godiva chocolate. Our hotel was not much to look at on the outside, but we thought it was in a perfect location, we each had our own comfy bed, and it was air conditioned!! By the time we got settled in our room, talked to our husbands, and rested a little, it was time for supper. We wandered outside of the hotel and ended up eating at a diner across the street. We were so tired that I'm not sure we even tasted our food, but it felt good to eat again in America and see words in English everywhere. We tried our best to stay awake to reset our internal clocks, but Deanna gave it up before I did. Because she fell asleep so early, Deanna woke up at 4 a.m. She was nice enough to let me sleep until 7, but she was itching to get out and do something. After breakfast we set out on a whirlwind tour of New York City. The first stop was the World Trade Center site. Construction had begun on the memorial plaza, but we couldn't see much of anything else because of the fences. We went into St. Paul's Chapel and looked at the memorabilia there concerning the rescue effort during the 9-11 attack. St. Paul's was a place of respite for the rescue workers during the early days following the attack. The second stop was Battery Park for a peek at the Statue of Liberty. The line to ride the boat out to it was very very long so we just looked at her from the park. We were getting hungry and knew exactly where we wanted to eat...Max Brenner,Chocolate by the Bald Man near Union Square! We rode the subway to Union Square and before eating, wandered through the outdoor market. I purchased a muffin for later from my favorite vendor there. The restaurant is off of a side street and when we entered the restaurant the heavenly scent of chocolate filled the air. We are positive that they pipe it into the doorway! Deanna ordered a pizza and I ate these wonderful rolled up chicken bites. The highlight was dessert of course. Deanna ordered hot chocolate in a hug mug. I ordered something called suckao. It's a little bowl of steamed milk on top of a candle heated pot that is served with a bowl of chopped chocolate. I mixed and melted the chopped chocolate into the milk and then sipped it through a straw type spoon. It was really neat. Then I ordered a lava cake filled with chocolate and caramel. It was also served with a mini chocolate frozen drink. Deanna shared it with me, thank goodness. After lunch, we walked by St. Thomas Church, popping in only to take a quick peek and then walked through Rockefeller Center. From there, we walked back to our hotel, taking note of where our theater was for our evening performance of Mama Mia. We were delighted to see that the theater was only a block around the corner from the hotel. We stopped in at the hotel to drop off our purchases from the morning and went right back out to the subway to go uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. Somehow we managed to enter from the subway with a school group and noone stopped us to pay the $16.00 entry fee. We didn't realize it until we had been in for awhile and never saw a ticket counter. We whizzed through the museum in about 1 1/2 hours. After exiting the museum, we went across the street and walked through Central Park, walking past the Bow Bridge to Bethesda Fountain. We made our way back to the subway and back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and the theater. Dinner was a couple of doors down from the hotel at an Italian restaurant. It was pretty good and fast. We were still a little stuffed from lunch. The highlight of the evening was Mama Mia. It's a broadway show based on the music of Abba. It was absolutely hysterical and wonderful all at the same time. I had to punch Deanna twice to make her stop singing. After Mama Mia, we walked a few blocks to stand in Times Square and then walked back to the hotel. We packed up for the last time and went to bed early. Tomorrow is home and the sweet faces of our family who we have missed so much.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Day in Kiev, Ukraine

Our Hotel pronounced "Corona"

The Golden Gate

A former famous restaurant building but I can't remember the name. We really liked the architecture.

More architecture

St. Sophia's Cathedral

The entry gate detail

old brick on St. Sophia

The Carillon...a musical instrument of at least 23 bronze bells made by the Botvynko brothers in 1980. It was made at their own expense and is the first traveling one in Ukraine. This one has 50 bells.

my introduction to a squatty potty...at least this one was clean

Monument to Bogdan Khmel'nitsky

Katia has a quick wit and when she saw this limo she exclaimed..(look it's from Mitch for your tour of Kiev)

a monument to the man who invented the Cyrillic alphabet. Not sure what the other three did.

Mikhailovskiy (St. Michael's) Monastery

renovation on the monastery

shopping on Andriyivsky Uzviz

St. Andrews Church as seen from the market street

a true cobblestone street...these were HUGE

the cutest van

Our lunch spot. Don't have a clue what the name is

Independence Square

Independence Square across the street

This water is the brand that we drank all week. We looked for the light blue label which indicated water WITHOUT gas. This is the Coca-Cola equivalent to Dasani in the U.S.

Deanna and Katia

Katia and Me
We left camp in the morning at 5:45 a.m. It was raining, but Jeff met us to say goodbye. It was impossible not to wake up our roommates, so goodbyes were said to them too. Wes, the Birmingham youth director, flew with us from Lugansk to Kiev where he was then able to connect to his international flight to head home. The itinerary had the flights close together which could have been a problem, but he made it. After Katia, our interpreter and friend, got him settled at the airport, we found a hotel and the hotel sent a car for us. We were able to check in and put our bags in our room before we set out to explore Kiev. It was a challenge to find the bus stop as it was not clearly marked and about 1/2 mile from the hotel. Regardless, we managed to find the bus and make our way into Kiev. We took the subway after the bus, which was a first for Deanna, and found our way into the city center. Actually it was a second because we had gone this far on our first day, but had to go back to the airport because Deanna was still sick. Our first stop was the Golden Gate which dates back to 1037 and was restored in 1983. It is one of the three main gates of the fortification of the city. We then walked to St. Sophia's Cathedral which was absolutely beautiful. There are 12 green domes which represent the 12 apostles and one gold dome to represent Christ. Deanna had visited the restroom here before and found it funny that it is underground. This was my first introduction to a squatty potty and thankfully it was a clean one. I thought it was unusual that you have to get your tissue before you go in because there is none inside. From there we passed a monument to Bogdan Khmel'nitsky erected in 1988. He led the Ukrainian people in a war of national liberation against Polish nobility. This led to the reunification of Ukraine with Russia in 1654. Crossing the street we walked toward the Mikhailovskiy (St.Michael's) Monastery which is said to be an active monastery today. It was undergoing exterior restoration while we were there. Outside the monastery was another monument to St. Cyril (the developer of the Cyrillic alphabet, Methodius, St. Andrew, and Princess Olga. From there we walked to Andriyivsky Uzviz, the most ancient and steepest street in Kiev. This was where the vendors, artist, and craftsmen line up with their wares to tempt the tourists. We were tempted and I came home with a matryoshka doll (nesting doll) and Deanna found gifts for her children. Thankfully we started at the top of this street as we were able to walk downhill all the way. At the bottom of the hill, we stopped for a late lunch at a popular place for authentic Ukrainian food. After eating peasant food all week, we thought this would be a real treat, but neither of us were real impressed. I did like the Chicken Kiev, however, which they just call "cutlets". It rained a little while we were in the restaurant so we enjoyed the air conditioning and sat for awhile. Upon leaving we decided that we had time for one more stop as we were getting tired and it was so hot. We went to Independence Square which is the city's main square. There is an underground mall there and I introduced Katia to Italian Gelato. We walked from there to a grocery (market) and I bought several bars of Ukrainian chocolate which I think is very good. We were very hot and tired at this point and decided to head back to the hotel. We rode the subway again out to where we would catch the bus. Once again, the station was difficult to find and we had to cross under the interstate to find the right direction of stop. While on the bus, the bus overheated and had to stop so it could cool down. We were on the bus with about 20 other people who were just as hot as we were and it was sweltering. If I thought that it was hot in camp, I didn't know what hot was. There wasn't anything dry on my body. Once we made it to the bus stop, we walked our 1/2 mile or so back to the hotel only to discover that it had rained while we were gone and the hotel had lost power. Without power, there was no air conditioning, no water, and no flushing toilet and the windows did not open. We were told that it wouldn't be out for long. After waiting a couple of hours, we found out that the hotel restaurant was operating on gas power and we could order some food. We ate our meal by the light of a tea light candle and the mini mag light that I sometimes travel with. It was a very interesting evening. Unfortunately for us, the power did not come on all night and was still off when we woke up. We were to leave to catch our flight at 8 a.m. and the power came on at 7:30 a.m. We took some of the fastest showers ever and we were clean for our international travel. Thank goodness. We were able to maintain our sense of humor throughout which I attribute to God himself. Had I been operating under Amy power, I probably would have been in a heap of tears. I guess you just have to do what you have to do when you have to do it. We made it to the airport early enough to convert our paper tickets into boarding passes. We said our goodbyes to Katia and entered security where my suitcase had to be opened so they could see the two little cans of Off that were in there. They even had me come behind security and look at the screen to help them figure out where it was. Very funny but not surprising for this trip.