Well I am back from my holiday and even though I had an amazing time travelling around the USA, I am glad to be home in my own house and my own bed. My friend and I spent New Years Eve in New York City, where it was a very toasty -3 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit) at midnight. Despite this bitter cold I managed to last until then to see the New Year in so that is something I can now tick off of my bucket list. We also nearly didn’t even make it to Washington DC because of the ‘Arctic Vortex’. Our plane was cancelled indefinitely because of the dangerous conditions but we got there in the end with the help of Amtrak. I’m glad we did too. We both really enjoyed DC and the very very friendly people there. The Museums are amazing as well, particularly the National and Natural museums and the very confronting but amazing holocaust museum (which had been on my list for many years). By the time we got to Boston we were a lot more wiser on American history, particularly it’s fight for independence and the civil war.
If the east coast was all about museums and history, then the west coast was definitely full of fun. We had a great tour with LA City tours who took us to movie locations and some of the homes of the stars in Los Angeles as well as over to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier. The best part by far however were the studio tours. We got to visit Warner Brothers, Universal and Paramount film lots and had a look at some of the sets for television shows such as The Mentalist, The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Bates Motel and a few movie shots such as Jaws and War of the Worlds. It was really great being able to act like a big kid on the rides at Universal studios and Disneyland as well. My only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to go and see California land at Disneyland as I have been told that it is just as good. After LA we had a cruisy few days in San Francisco which is another really nice city and then on to our last stop, Las Vegas.
I love Vegas. Of all the places in America on my bucket list, New York and Vegas were the two I most wanted to see and I am glad that neither disappointed. But again, even though we were there for four days I definitely could have stayed longer. We didn’t even do a lot of gambling, all day we were sight seeing and going to shows and there were still a number of casinos which we didn’t even have time to visit! I would have loved to have gone down to Fremont street for example. We did get to do the big roller coaster ride at New York, New York which was fantastic and not as scary as I thought it would be. The rides at Circus Circus were fantastic as well (even though I only managed to do two of them before I started feeling sick!). For anyone going to Vegas I suggest going to the Mirage first. We bought tickets there to see Siegfried and Roy’s famous collection of big cats and the amazing dolphins, but they have special packages too where you can pay a bit extra and get unlimited day passes to Circus Circus and New York, New York (there are other choices as well). Otherwise you have to pay for each time you want a ride. Plus Siegfried is known to be seen walking around the section where the big cats are kept. We managed to have a photo with him and he is such a lovely guy.
But we didn’t just visit the USA! I absolutely love England and I always feel like I am coming home when I go there so any excuse I can find I will try and get there. Plus I have a few friends and relatives over there who I can visit which always makes a nice break in a long journey. So we spent a few days in London reacquainting ourselves before heading off to DENMARK!!! I know, I know. Haven’t I seen enough? But it’s the same logic. When it is so close (well by Australian standards), you want to try and Denmark and Scandinavia in general have been on my list for years too. So we went, and it was mighty cold, but I loved it. I am definitely planning to go back, in warmer weather this time, adding Norway and Sweden as well.
Of course it was snowing the whole week, which we expected, but Copenhagen has some really lovely palaces in which to keep warm and explore (unfortunately we didn’t see our ‘Tasmanian Cousin’ Princess Mary), and I enjoyed the National Museum as well. Unfortunately I was also very very disappointed in the National Museum too (although to be fair it wasn’t really their fault). I knew there was a museum exhibition in London this March on the Vikings but right up until I was wandering around the National Museum it never really caught on that it was in conjunction with the very Museum I was visiting. I was so impressed by the layout and the artefacts from early prehistoric Denmark and Scandinavia on display, so when we got to around 600-700 AD we were confused and disappointed to find lots of little cards in cabinets telling us that certain items had been removed for the London Exhibition. Most of the items from between 700 AD until around 1000AD were missing! It was just our luck. So if anyone ends up going to the London exhibition please think of me, staring forlornly into a semi empty glass cabinet where the Mammen axe or the famous Ulfberht sword, used to lay.
Despite the snow and the cold I also took a day trip to Roskilde, the oldest known town on the island of Saejland. It was a great trip actually, only taking 20 mins by train, and the town is lovely. Modern but small and easy to walk around. The staff at the Roskilde Museum were lovely and friendly as well and even though it is only a small museum it has quite a few Viking artefacts. Which made me happy again!
The rest of the museum is also well worth a look at as it charts the growth of the town right through to the present and has an interesting display of toys in the attic.
After the Museum we trudged through the snow to the Roskilde cathedral. The original 10th century church is thought to be somewhere underneath the newer church and is the final resting place of many of the Denmark’s Royal families, right up until the 19th century. Harald Bluetooth, the great Viking King who built the first church there in the late 10th century was buried somewhere in or near the original church. Neither his body nor the original church have been found but there is a mural styled plaque within the Chancel dedicated to him, as well as dedications to King Canute’s son (Sweyn Estridsen) and sister Estrid, who were also buried here.
The last place we went to in Roskilde was the Viking ship museum. This is the world famous home of the Skuldelev vessels that were excavated nearly intact and there was no way I could come to Roskilde and not see them. I plan to go into more detail about these remarkable discoveries in a later post but basically they were scuttled in the natural channel of Peberrende which leads into the Roskilde Fjord, to form a barrier or blockage there around the 11th century. Another section of the fjord was also blocked in a similar way so that only one channel was open and protected from other viking raiders and pirates. The five vessels (it has since been discovered that Skuldelev 4 is part of Skuldelev 2) were eventually re-discovered in the1960’s and excavated. A lot of what we now know about viking ships, ship building and sea navigation etc has derived from the study of these ships so they are understandably very important. The museum itself is basic (an introductory film, the boats, information placards and a children’s play area and museum shop), but I think this is actually better as the focus remains on the ships themselves and not on high tech gadgets or flashy billboards. I would definitely recommend this museum to anyone thinking of going to Denmark. In fact I recommend Roskilde in general, even if it’s just for a day trip to have a coffee and a bit of light shopping.
Well that was my trip in a very tight nutshell. I really enjoyed the break from writing and researching and hopefully now I am refreshed to start all over again for another year.
Which brings me to my last two points of business. I have joined up with Wattpad where the first four chapters of The Northumbrian Saga will be offered on there in weekly instalments for free. The first three of nine installments are already up. Feel free to add me as a friend or drop me a line to recommend books you have enjoyed. There is a lot of talent on the site and I have really enjoyed reading some of the short stories and serials people have been writing as they go. I have been getting into this type of format lately and attempting a serial some time in the future is still on my list of things to try.
So feel free to join up with Wattpad and let me know what you think of the story. If you have already read The Northumbrian Saga, don’t forget to leave a review. Reviews are very important to all Indie Authors so if you do read any books on Amazon, Kobo, Wattpad etc that you loved, or even mildly enjoyed, leave a few lines so the author and other readers have a better understanding of the story (and for the Author what they need to improve on next time).
I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas break. I have been hearing a lot about the horrible winter weather in the USA, Canada and the UK so I hope everyone is safe and well. Thankfully we weren’t affected by the worst of the snow and flooding (I still can’t believe it was sunny for the entire four days I was in London!!!), but I am mindful that many others were not so lucky. My best wishes for those affected.
A H Gray