Preparing to Return to SoFla

Since our last post we have visited Tanin (the capital of Estonia) and Copenhagen (Denmark’s capital). Tanin is sort of a “Medieval World” realtown. The distinction is that the buildings and streets in the old town area (which consists of about five square miles of walled-in hill-top) have the same basic surfaces and facades as they did in the 1400’s. Of course, the sanitation has been upgraded, and the interiors have likewise been furnished in modern mien to meet modern commercial needs of the tourist trade. That said, the old town is charming and picturesque. Other than Les’s painful broken foot (which is on the mend and getting better daily — but still restricts her ability to move around with any kind of alacrity), we would have been able to more fully enjoyed this surprisingly quaint and pleasant little gem of a city. Of course, the obligatory MacDonald’s as you enter through the main city gate subtracted much from the otherwise charming feeling about the place. It seems that most Estonians speak several languages (as do most Scandinavians), including English. They are taught these tongues in elementary school (or their version of same). So from one of the locals we were able to obtain good directions to a somewhat off the beat and track craft store  where Les bought a hand-made, leather-bound, photo scrap-book for all the great photos I plan to download when I get home (and then Photoshop into memorable condition, such as changing cloudy days into sunny days!)

We have also learned that the children in most of the countries we have visited (especially, Holland Finland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden), receive superior public educations in their schools — concentrating on math, science and language training.  In addition, their social services — such as health care — are provided from birth to death, all paid for by the state. As a consequence, their tax rates are higher than the U.S. (50% top rates vs. 35% in U.S.), but the “return” on that 15% investment appears to be well worth the cost. In Finland, teaching is considered a most-worthy profession, and their teachers actually have to compete for the privilege of having a teaching job. In return they get very high pay. Their average class size is about fifteen pupils, and there are two teachers in every classroom — a leader and his or her teaching assistant. As a result, the Fins score the highest on their math and science tests, and their high-tech industry is excelling on the world markets.  Hmmm…might we in the U.S. learn a lesson from this?

Today is our last “day at sea.” Essentially this means that we can rest up from our vacation, pack up from our vacation, print out boarding passes, continue to eat too much, and take a moment to reflect upon the last sixteen days….

Yesterday was our day in Copenhagen. It rained the entire time we were on tour (it rains in Copenhagen 170 days each year). When we returned to the ship, the rain stopped and the sun came out (sort of part of the tour package). Nonetheless, we were able to view and have one of our tour group take our picture at the Little Mermaid sculpture, we saw Tivoli Gardens, the palace of the queen and royal family, the canals of Copenhagen (look just like Amsterdam’s), the Lutheran Church where the royals wed, are crowned, etc., and various other places of historical and cultural interest in Copenhagen. I was most moved by the apartment where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote many of his tales ( The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, etc.).

We did luck out with the group we came to sit with each night at the late dinner seating. These consisted of two English couples traveling together, and one couple from New Jersey who were being accompanied by their lately widowed father, a Virginian named (believe it) Buck White. At age 81, Buck was dancing merrily with the girls in the Rendezvous Lounge last night. The New Jersey couple, David and Carol from Princeton, were originally from Virginia. Dave works for the marketing department of IBM. The two British couples (Jeff and Maureen and Mark and Sue) are basic working-class-type folks, in their fifties, who are jolly and humorous. Both Jeff and Mark must each be about six-foot-two and weigh maybe 250 to 300 pounds (they look like ex-football players). They both work together in Bristol. Jeff lives in London and Mark in Bath. We learned that Bristol is the birthplace of Cary Grant (and his ancestral home there is suitably memorialized). Last night I returned to the ship’s casino, where David, Carol and Buck found me and stopped by the watch me play the Texas Hold-em table game. They said they had come by to bring me luck, which they apparently succeeded at, as I then proceeded to have winning hand after winning hand until I won back all the money I had previously donated to Celebrity Cruise line during my previous ten nights of play. When they left, I stopped and left as well. Of course, the way I gamble in casinos — which is more to just chat with the fellow players and not lose any significant amounts — my “winnings” consisted of about $900 (the aggregate of what I was at that point “down.” So I quite when I got ahead (meaning, “even”).

There was one bit of casino excitement when the lady sitting next to me (Janice from Plantation, Florida), was dealt of royal flush in spades at the Texas Hold-em table. She had only a minimum bet down but won over $3,000.  Such a hand is extremely rare. Many of the dealers had never seen a royal flush dealt in Hold-em up until then. Remember, we are talking about understand what is essentially seven-card stud.   It’s okay though, Janice had sufficient time left to lose back the entire $3,000 (which she may or may not have done).

So we have had a good long break from the daily routine of our lives — something a vacation is supposed to be all about. We have seen much and been pampered much (and eaten way too much)…also the things that vacations are supposed to be all about as well.

We look forward to coming home safely and sharing a bit of our memories with you all…Oh yes, and we also look forward to our next vacation!

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