Sunday, April 26, 2009


In other news, I planned my last trip for the year.  I'm going to Belgium with Sara Laprade.  My good friend Chris Keenan (you've met him mom.  He came for dinner that night) works for Johnson and Johnson and is part of a team that travels to all the different JnJ locations.  He will be in Belgium for the first half of May, so Sara and I planned on visiting him from May 12-14th.  This is during the week, but, right after classes end and before finals.  

Also, everything is begining to turn green.  Check it out.


My good friend from New Visions, Andrew, is here right now.  He got here on Thurday night an is leaving in the afternoon on Monday.  We are having a really nice time together.  Both Friday and Saturday nights we went out to the city and we did hours of sightseeing during the day yesterday. The more time I spend in the city the more I like it.

There were two highlights yesterday.  The first was walking through the King's Garden.  It is a huge park right near Norreport station.  I'm sorry I didn't bring Mom and Aunt Nancy through there.  Basically, it is like a huge party/picnic.  People just put down towels and have a couple drinks.  I will definitely come back here.

King's Garden.  How cool is that?

Andrew/Alex and I in front of Amelienborg Palace.

The second place we went was the infamous town of Christiania.  I'm not really sure I understand it enough to explain it, but, basically, it is aself governed hippie town.  It is very very liberal, to say the least.  You are not allowed to take pictures in the town because there is lots of illegal stuff.  It was bizzare and kinda scary.  But, we spent a couple hours walking around there an went back to DTU.

I had a barbecue to go to to celebrate a friends 21st birthday.  Andrew came with me and there were like 17 of us.  It was fun.  

Visitors! Continued2


I don’t recall meeting on Tuesday ecause I had class in the afternoon with a class on Wednesday morning.  They told me they went shopping and walked the streets more. 



On Wednesday, we EVENTUALLY met up after my class in the morning (long story-miscommuntication).  We went to the train station and caught the metro to Sweden.  It was only a half hour trip, on a new, long, beautiful bridge called the Oresund Bridge (crosses the Oresund Strait).  Then, we were in Malmo.

Malmo reminded me a lot of Copenhagen.  It was a similar atmosphere.  Lots of shops and squares with plenty of people.  We walked around exploring for a couple of hours and had a nice time.  We went into an old church and that was really pretty.  Then we went and saw a famous old castle, but, we didn’t go inside.  After that, we went back. 

The most famous square in Malmo.

An altar from the 1500's.

The most interesting part of the day came at dinner.  We chose to go to the Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen.  This was a good decision.  First of all, it was closeby and the food was delicious.  When we entered, it was happy hour at the bar, so we spent some time there before sitting down to eat.  I started talking to a guy at the bar in a Danish soldier’s uniform.  His name was Dennis and he was probably 35 years old.  He told me that he was a driver for a prestigious political figure.  We started casually talking.  In a little while, Mom and Aunt Nancy joined me and we spoke for a wile at the bar.  When we were hungry to eat, to be polite, we asked him if he wanted to join us.  He did and we had a nice time.  He was interesting and he was able to answer a lot questions from Mom and Aunt Nancy that I could not.  He also paid for dinner which was cool.

With Dennis at the Hard Rock Cafe.

After dinner, I went home because of class in the morning.



We met up after class on Thursday.  However, while I was in class for the morning, Mom and Aunt Nancy went to a special event at the Amelienborg Palace.  This is the same place we went on Sunday to see the changing of the gaurds, but, this time, they were celebrating the Queen’s birthday.  They said it was a nice ceremony.  I was proud of them because they found their way across the city and back on their own.

On Thursday, we kinda took it easy.  I think we went for a nice stroll through some other parts of Copenhagen and then we went to the notorious Tivoli Gardens.  This is the oldest amusement park in Scandinavia, dating back to 1843.  It is located right in the center of the city and close to our hotel room.  It is not a large park, but, it did have a bunch of roller coasters and rides.  We could see the tall rides from the hotel.  I didn’t do any of them because they were expensive, but it was beautiful to walk around.  We went in the afternoon, but, apparently it is even more beautiful at night because they light over 120,000 lamps every night and it is open till midnight on the weekends.  It also has about 30 restaurants, including some of the best in Copenhagen.  It was a nice blend of an amusement park and a beautiful garden/park.  In fact, there were as many older people just strolling around as there were kids.

We walked around for a little while and then made our way to a 30 piece orchestra.  It was a nice little concert, right at the gardens.  It went on for a half hour and we stayed for the entire thing.  I enjoyed it a lot. 

After the concert, it was dinner time, so again we made our way to the Hard Rock Café.  After another great dinner, we went back to the hotel room and hung out together for the last night.  I stayed again that night so that I could see Mom and Aunt Nancy off in the morning.  After they left, I went back to bed an did my own thing in the morning.

Overall, we had a great time together and I’m really glad that we had this opportunity.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Visitors! Continued


I spent the night on Sunday so that we could get an early start on Monday.  We got the train to Hillerod, which is where the Fredericksburg Castle is.  I’d never been there and this place was fantastic.  Not only is it a unique castle from the 16th century, but, it is now the Danish National Art Museum so it had lots of artifacts.  I didn’t bring my camera so all the pictures are on Mom’s, but, here are a couple from the internet.

The entrance.

The church in the castle (I took better pictures).  It was beautiful.

We did a self guided walking tour, which was fine, and the place was absolutely gorgeous.  It was extremely extravegant.  We met a nice museum operator who pointed out some cool stuff about some of the paintings/architexture.  I was really glad we went.  

Monday, April 20, 2009



Mom and Aunt Nancy came to visit me last week.  We had a wonderful time together.  They chose a good week to come to Copenhagen.  First and foremost, the weather was great.  The last couple of days were a little windy, but, still sunny.  If it had rained, I don't know what we would have done.  Secondly, I wasn't that busy this week.  It was the first week of classes since spring break so there was not much going on and I could spend a lot of time with them.

I met them at the airport no problem and then we made our way to the hotel where we had a minor delay.  Mom and Aunt Nancy were suffering from jet lag and the hotel couldn't give us a room for about 3 hrs.  We spent those hours in the lobby, where Mom was the only one lucky enough to fall asleep.  

Finally, around noon, we got checked into the room.  The room was really nice.  We got a cot and all of us took a 3 hr power nap.  After that, we for a walk around the city.  Nothing too intense, just a nice stroll so that we don't miss-out on a sunny day.  There were not many stores open, as would be the case through Monday, because everything shuts down for Easter.

For dinner that night, we ate at a nice little pub called Strecker's, on the famous Stroget Street.


On Easter morning, we woke up and walked about 30min to a Roman Catholic church for mass.  It was a nice ceremony that took about 1.5hrs.  Unfortunately it was all in Danish, but, surprisingly, the routine was the same.  I'm talking about the procession of the mass, it was very similar to the mass I'm used to in America.  

After that, we went to the Queens palace to see the "changing of the gaurds" ceremony begining at noon.  I'd never seen it before either and it was pretty cool.  

Then we went to the infamous Nyhavn Street (which is where my homepage picture was taken) for brunch and a boat tour.  It was a beautiful day and there were lots of people out doing the same as us.  We did the boat tour and that was a nice, quick way to see the main sites of the city.  The tour guide was most impressive because everything she said she translated into 3 Languages; English, German, and Danish.  

A view of Amalienborg Palace from the water.

I guess Aunt Nancy was a little cold on the boat tour.

My own picture of Nyhavn Street.

Then, we went to DTU so I could show them where/how I lived and introduce them to my friends.

I believe that we went to an Italian restaurante for dinner that night.  It was really good food and decently priced.  That was a nice way to wrap up the day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 6

Last full day in Paris.  In the morning, we went to the airport to pick up another friend of Pierre's. Like me, she knew Pierre through DTU.  Her name was Gosia, from Poland.  She was staying for a week in Paris as well, but, with a different friend.  However, her friend couldn't meet her at the airport, so we did.

We decided to go to Versaille directly from the airport because it was nearby.  We got there pretty early; like 10am.  Even then, it was PACKED.  There must have been 500 people in line to enter the palace.  We didn't want to wait in that line so we just toured the outside; for free.  We walked around the building and toured the gardens and it was beautiful, although the weather was a little overcast.  

After Versaille, we went back to Pierre's house with Gosia.  We hung out there for a little while and then went to the city.  From there, we told Gosia where to go and Pierre and I walked around for a little while longer.  We were tired so we went back to his house for dinner and then went back to Paris again and met up with one of Pierre's good friends.  The three of us hung out in the city till late, just talking and doing some casual drinking next to the river.  Then we went home.

Day 7:

My flight wasn't till 8pm that night so we planned on going to the Catacombs.  However, we didn't get up early enough and we were worried about traffic, so we just relaxed for the day and then Pierre went with me by train to the airport at like 5.  The journey home was easy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day 5

After a long day yesterday, we took it easy.  Pierre wanted to run some errands so he went out. At about 2pm I went for a bike ride around Pierre's neighborhood.  His neighborhood was beautiful. 

His house is close to the river, and there is a gorgeous bike path that runs along the river for several kilometers.  As it turns out, I got really lost.  I knew I wasn't far from Pierre's house, but, I got confused none-the-less.  The area is really confusing.  I made sure to pay attention when I left his house, but, I didn't realize that road changed names before it got to the river.  After riding around for an additional 2 hrs, which I didn't mind cause it was a great/scenic ride, I finally got home in time for dinner.

The bike path.

A nice house.
A view along the bike path.  The woman on the left was feeding bread to the birds.

Pierre was not home yet, so I ate with his parents and sister.  It was homemade pizza, followed by apple pie with ice cream for dessert.  It was delicious.  Pierre arrived a little later and I took a couple pics of the family.  

Pierre's Family.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 4. Continued...

After touring Normandy, we continued west to Mont Saint Michel.  We chose Mont Saint Michel over Sainte-Mere-Eglise (the church where the American paratrooper’s chute got caught on the steeple) because Mont Saint Michel is a much larger attraction.  It dates back to the 10th century.  Pierre told me I would really like it.

We drove for another 2 hours from Normandy through a lot of farmland.  Finally we approached a little city, and once we passed the city, you could see this HUGE castle (actually a church), all alone on an island, in the distance; about 20km away.  It looked like something out of a fairytale.  The only thing in sight is this huge castle sitting alone atop an island.  It was very surreal. 

The church in the distance.

We parked and walked to the castle.  We went through the main gates.  There is a little town below the main structure, but, still in the city walls.  It was very touristy.  We walked through the town and climbed to the entrance of the church.  We didn’t go inside because it was expensive and the little town itself was cool enough.  After taking more pictures, we left for home.

Walking the streets.

Notice that there is nothing around.

Notice the "elevator" on the left of the pic.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 4- Storming the Beaches

7am: Pierre and I wake up.  I head inside and eat two eggs over easy with some ham.  Pierre finishes his shower, we grab some fruit, and we are off; to Normandy.  The drive took us about 3 hrs to get to the beach, including one pit stop. 

On our way there, the weather was nice as we left Paris.  It was very promising for most of the ride.  It was beautiful to see the French country side bathed in sunlight.  The country is all farmland, like driving through Argyle or Harford, NY.  However, as we got closer to Caen, the weather got worse.  It became very foggy, but, that was expected because we were getting closer to the ocean.  I was okay with the weather because that would make the visit seem more realistic.

The first stop was Juno beach, which was dedicated to the Canadians because they took that beach.  There was a Canadian tank on display that had actually landed on the beach on D-Day and was knocked out of service.  The beach was rather unimpressive.  After a couple minutes we were anxious to move on towards Omaha.

Juno Beach.

Arromanches.  You can see the remnants of “Port Winston”, an artificial harbor 

The drive to Omaha took another 30 minutes or so.  I didn’t realize the beaches were as spread out as they are.  The small towns we drove through to go from beach to beach were amazing.  95% of the buildings are original.  You can tell that they have been through a fight.  It was intriguing knowing that, at some point many years ago, American soldiers walked the same streets and liberated each town, house by house.  Most buildings looked very weathered, and not in a natural way.   In some, you can see bullet holes.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to spend exploring the countless towns.  One could easily spend days going from village to village and discovering all the unique liberation stories. 

It was too easy to picture German MG-42 squads waiting in any window/alley of the small towns to ambush the American soldiers.  You know that each village had to be liberated and you can see how hard that task is as you drive through these towns.  Their layout is windy and very close quartered.  Directly across the street from these little towns are huge green fields, just like are displayed in the movies/videogames. 

Originally, I thought the trees/bushes/downed trees and ditches are made in the videogames so that they would be more fun to play.  Not the case at all. Just like in the games, each field is distinctly bordered by tree /brush lines or small rock walls.  Some even had debris in the field.  In fact, there was one place in particular (besides the beaches) that I know I played in Brothers in Arms (a game that supposedly recreates the battle fields).  It was easy to imagine the skirmishes that must have broken out in these towns/fields.  You could picture gliders landing in any of them, or soldiers walking through them.  It was really cool.

Finally, we made our way to my number one destination; Omaha Beach.  At this point, the sun had come out and was shining brightly.  After parking, we walked in and went straight to the cemetery.  Wow.  All those graves…The cemetery is gorgeous and tear jerking.  We walked through the entire cemetary, paying our respects.  I didn’t know this, but, the cemetery lies directly above Omaha beach.  It offers a great view of the beach.  Then we headed down to the beach.

The first thing you see when entering the cemetary.  

A list of names of the soldiers burriend in the cemetary.
Standing next to the American Flag.
Cemetary with Omaha Beach in the background.
Picture of Pointe du Hoc in the background from the cemetary.
The trail from the cemetary down to the beach.
Halfway down the trail, looking up.

And it was a long, long, way down to the beach.  If it wasn’t for the nice trail, it would have taken a while just to get down.  (It was probably as steep and large a hill as Dynamite Hill, where we used to go sledding.)  Off the trail, the hill was covered in vegetation; real thick and tall brush, like a jungle.  This was not how I imagined it.  I thought it would be covered in long green grass, like in the movies. 

Once we got to the bottom we walked on the beach for a while.  The beach itself is huge.  It was low tide when we were there, just like when the landings began on D-Day.  Soldiers had to cover hundreds of yards of sandy beach, all while running low with a 50lb backpack on and getting shot at from all angles.  It was amazing anyone survived.  Then, they had to climb up a huge steep hill; one that took Pierre and I a good 5min to climb up and we were walking up a trail with nothing on our backs and no one shooting at us.  That is one thing Pierre and I commented on.  We couldn’t figure out how the Germans lost.  They had such a stronger position.  The forces and obstacles that the American’s had to overcome are even more apparent to me now. 

At the end of the trail, finally at the beach.

Standing in the middle of the beach.

From the middle of the beach looking toward the cemetary.  

For comparison.  

Nearly all the remnants of June 6th have been removed.  Even the huge concrete bunkers have been removed.  I believe that this was done to create a peaceful atmosphere for the American Cemetery.  It wouldn’t be right if those horrid war symbols remained in such a sacred, peaceful place as the cemetery.  As a result of removing the bunkers, it felt like something was missing as you looked onto the hill from the beach.  In other words, it was tough to get a realistic picture of what the American soldier’s saw when their landing craft gate dropped.

After taking our time at Omaha, it was off to Pointe du Hoc.  The trip took about 15 min by car, again, through the classic Normandy landscape.  Upon entering the cliff top from the parking lot, the first thing you realize is the terrain.  It is full of huge craters; some about 50 ft in diameter and 25 ft deep.  They are everywhere.  All the bunkers remain, some in better condition than others.  It was really cool to finally see some real bunkers.

Entering Pointe du Hoc.

Random man in a big crater.

Inside a bunker.  Where the German guns were supposed to be.
View from the top of the cliff.
Underground bunker.
Inside an underground bunker.

It was surprising.  You know that there were some close quarter firefights in those bunkers.  Wow.  There are also countless other underground tunnels and stuff for exploring.  However, you’re never allowed to get too close to the cliffs so you can’t ever see directly down, but, you can see the steepness of the cliffs when you look to either side at the cliffs in the distance.  Again, Pierre and I were amazed that the American’s were able to capture the area.  The German’s had such a better position.

After a couple hours at Normandy, it was back in the car for Mont Saint Michel.