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Victorian Christmas Stroll

Today I went to Henry B Plant Museum to see their exhibition Victorian Christmas Stroll.

From their website: The Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, the Victorian railroad resort that defined the elegant frontier, now a National Historic Landmark. Unlike most museums dedicated to lifestyles of the past, it contains the actual furnishings enjoyed by the first guests to visit here. The Museum accurately reflects the opulence of turn-of-the-century America and the vision of American transportation pioneer, Henry B. Plant.

The Tampa Bay Hotel was built between 1888-1891 and is an example of Moorish and Turkish architecture and was built by Henry B. Plant to attract tourists to Tampa. It also served as the headquarters for the United State Army’s invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Mr Plant brought the railroad to Tampa in 1884 and from here you could take the steamship to Havana, Jamaica, New Orleans, New York, Bermuda, or other destinations.

Tampa Bay Hotel
Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

They had Christmas trees in every room that was part of the Victorian Christmas Stroll. I will go back once Christmas is over to see the rest of the museum.

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Farewell and welcome

We have a girl that will be going back to Sweden next week. She’s the interpreter and they only stay for 6 months. Now her successor has arrived and we welcomed her at the same time.

H has really been maximising her time here and done a lot of things in Tampa, Florida and other parts of the States.

So tonight we had barbecue at the MacDill beach with all the Swedes working on base. We had a wonderful setting with dolphins swimming just 20-50 metres away and a sunset that was amazing. No pictures of dolphins as I wasn’t quick enough but we even saw some jump.

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Bern’s Steak House

Tonight we had dinner at a fancy place or at least fancier than we normally eat. Peter have been here before but for me it was a first time. The outside looks dull and the place has no windows.

Bern’s steakhouse has North America’s largest wine cellar. They carry 6500 different wines (not bottles) and their wine list was like a book.

We started with a drink at the bar while waiting for our table. You have to book several months ahead to get a table.

We had their steak dinner which included French onion soup to start with, then house salad and then the meat served with baked potato, onion rings and vegetables.

French onion soup
House salad
My Chateaubriand
Peter’s strip steak

If you like to you have a reservation for the dessert room upstairs but we skipped it today as our reservation was at 20:30. Still when we left people where still waiting for tables.

We had a lovely dinner and I’m glad we skipped dessert. Now I will try to sleep with a full stomach.

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Saturday outing in November

The weather has become cooler but it’s still wonderful outside. It said 16 degrees C when we left our house but in the sun it was still warm.

We drove to Circle B Bar to spot some alligators, I don’t know why but they don’t seem to like me as we saw very few. Or it was the fact that there was a lot of families with kids running around screaming 😱

But we saw the head of one big one and tale of another, two young ones, turtles, herons and ospreys. It was a nice long walk and we enjoyed it even without a lot of gators.

On our way to see some wildlife
Spanish moss on the oak
The head of the big gator
Drying himself
A small turtle
Baby gator one
Baby gator two
So focused
A heron just about to fly away
It caught a gecko and you can see it hold the gecko with the beak
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Thanksgiving 2021

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US. It’s their biggest holiday and families gather to celebrate.

We were invited to our neighbours Rebecca and Steve together with Rebecca’s sister, niece and nephew together with the boyfriend of the sister.

I was bringing some dessert and decided to bring a Pumpkin Pie lasagna which I’ve done before. It’s a cheesecake style pie which is really nice.

We had a tasty dinner and nice company together and as always way to much to eat. We sat outside all evening which was lovely.

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils

Today we went to see some hockey again. It’s fun watching hockey here because something happens all the time.

They lost today but played well the first two periods. The third they just made to many mistakes. The last few minutes when they had a chance to score even the goal keeper switched for a player. Not a good decision as the Devils scored. But the support for the team was there. Everyone stood up and cheered.

One of the three goals Bolts did was done by Hedman. I couldn’t get my phone out quick enough to record but after the goal the blasted Roger Pontare’s ”När vindarna viskar mitt namn” (When the spirits are calling my name) in Swedish. Well maybe next time 😊

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Sheraton Sand Key Resort

Yesterday we were invited to Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater by the CEO of the resort for a dinner and a stay.

Peter and I arrived shortly after 4pm and checked in. We went to our room where we were welcomed by some wine and cheese. Had a glass of red wine on the balcony before we went downstairs and took a walk on the beach. The hotel is located at the very top of Clearwater and has a huge beach. The beach is often used for concerts or other big parties.

We were meeting with the CEO, his wife, the Danish and French SNR together with their wives at 5:45 but as the others got stuck in traffic it was a bit delayed.

There was a jazz festival going on in the hotel as well so lot of people and music everywhere. We got passes to go and see the different band while waiting for the Danes and French. The jazz festival has been coming to the hotel for 35 years except last year due to the pandemic.

Once everyone was there we headed in to the restaurant where Mr Kimbell had a table by the kitchen. He’s been the CEO for 40 years and runs a nice place.

The food was outstanding with scallops and shrimps as a starter, then I had a pasta and Peter had salmon and we all had bread pudding as dessert.

Pool area
We stayed on floor 5
Pool and beach
Seen from the beach
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Beautiful coffee morning at the beach

The coffee mornings have started again but as you have to wear mask indoors on base we will do them at the beach instead.

Personally the family centre is a bit boring and small which makes the beach so much better. They have huts with roof which make it perfect.

Today it was Poland who invited us and the food was delicious. We had savoury and sweet treats. As we were at the beach we also had the pleasure to see dolphins just outside.

Afterwards me, Elin and the kids called Peter and Lars and met them for lunch. It was slider day at base and we headed over to the truck.

Looking at some of the ladies you would think it was cold – it wasn’t…
The sweets
Mix of savoury and sweet dishes
The savoury dishes
All the ladies
St Pete on the other side of the bay
Lykke and Kasper enjoying the beach
Dolphins
Dolphins
Our lunch place
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Kennedy Space Centre

Yesterday US celebrated Veterans Day and Peter was off from work. As KSC had free entrance for veterans we decided to do the 3 hour drive to the east coast. It’s a smooth drive if it weren’t for all the accidents. People are not focusing on the road but rather their phones or something else. So if the traffic stops for an accident or road work they create even more accidents 🤬

When arriving to the centre we talked about if we would run into the other Swedes. I looked at the amount of cars and people and said no. Less than 10 min later we saw them 🤪 We ran into them several more times.

We started by walking to the Rocket Garden and then to see the movie about all the people who has made it possible at Heroes & Legends.

Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden

We did almost everything – the only part we skipped was the IMAX as we ran into Hedda who said it was a 40 min movie and worth it. But we saved it for last and by then we were more than satisfied.

We saw movies, read about the sacrifices some astronauts did but their colleagues didn’t give up. We saw a real space shuttle, we tried a launch, we touched the moon and saw where they assemble the rockets. We also saw where they had launched the first rocket to the moon and also the one they sent up on Wednesday evening. Not only did we see space things, we also spotted alligators, boars and eagles.

Going there is a must if you come to Florida. We will go back and hope we can show Emelie, Felicia and Micael as well next time they are here. This time might be a bit short as it’s Christmas as well.

Peter trying to land a moon rocket.
Those who never made it home again ❤️
It’s huge as you can see
Trying to show the length of the moon rocket.
The space launch
They had the first page of several newspapers from the day when man first walked on the moon – even the Swedish DN
Walking to the rocket 😉
This is where the rockets are assembled. The building is 160 metres high and the flag is hand painted.
Star constellations
A real space shuttle – Atlantis
Atlantis seen from down under
Going back home and being stuck in traffic
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Fort De Soto Park and a clogged sewer

Saturday we were going to have the neighbours over for dinner. I cooked in the morning and when I was done I went upstairs because Peter wanted me come upstairs. I then continued to clean the upstairs’ bathrooms, which I’m glad I did. Came downstairs to clean bathroom and discovered the toilet was about to flood.

When we used water we saw the water rise again. Called the landlord who tried to get hold of a plumber. We couldn’t use water, go to the toilet and in a few hours we were going to have dinner guests 😱

I had to use the neighbours bathroom to survive the afternoon. We pushed back the dinner with 30 minutes when the plumber still wasn’t here an hour before the guests were arriving. 10 minutes before they came landlord and plumber arrived.

They were gone 30 minutes later and we could continue with our dinner. Probably it is connected to the problem we had with the sewers in the driveway. Hopefully everything will be fine now.

Today we went to Fort De Soto Park which is 5 interconnected islands (keys). It is beaches, mangroves, wetlands, plants and wildlife especially birds. According to their website more than 328 species can be found there.

There is also an old fort that was used by the Union military being stationed there during the Civil War (1861-1865). But it wasn’t until 1882 that the military reservations were official created on the two keys. There is a museum near by the old fort but we didn’t go inside today.

They have great biking routes so we brought the bikes and biked for a while. It was sunny today but quite windy and a bit cold.

On our way home we ate at Billy’s Stone Crab & Lobster, I had shrimp tacos which were fabulous. We had a wonderful day and even if it was cooler you can wear shorts and a t-shirt. But we saw people with a knitted hat, down jacket and scarfs 😳

Walking up on the fort
On top of the old fort
South of the Skyway bridge
Kite surfing on the north part
Peter in shorts and the lady in the back with hat, scarf and down jacket
A screen shot of Fort De Soto
My shrimp tacos
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Wildlife on Halloween

We went to Sawgrass Lake Park for a walk and to see what wildlife we could spot today. Temperature has fallen with 10 degrees C or 20 degrees F so it was really comfortable to walk outside for a couple of hours.

We saw turtles, birds and a baby alligator but it was not a large park so after an hour we left to go to a bigger park.

We drove over to Weedon Island Preserve which is bigger and where we thought we could use our bikes. But the big sign saying no bikes allowed was clear.

This was a nice walk and we could have walked a lot more if we had chosen different trails. Here we saw 2 eagles and they were magnificent as well as 2 vultures. Sadly I didn’t get a picture of the eagles as they were not cooperating with me.

Sawgrass Lake Park
Sawgrass Lake Park
The head of a turtle at Sawgrass Lake Park
Sawgrass Lake Park
A baby alligator at Sawgrass Lake Park
Sawgrass Lake Park
A turtle at Sawgrass Lake Park
Same turtle at Sawgrass Lake Park
A wild orchid at Sawgrass Lake Park
Saw a turtle on our way back to the car at Sawgrass Lake Park
Vultures at Weedon Island Preserve
Entering Weedon Island Preserve
Some part of the trail had signs like this with informs about the area and wildlife
Mangrove at Weedon Island Preserve
Weedon Island Preserve
Weedon Island Preserve
Weedon Island Preserve
Weedon Island Preserve
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Cruising – day 6

After a very rocky night we woke up in Tampa. We had left our bags out yesterday evening and the only things to pack this morning was the toothbrushes and chargers.

We had buffet breakfast and took it slow as our time slot to disembark the ship was between 9-9:30. To avoid crowds you had to wait in your room for your time slot number showing on the TV.

As people seems to be unable to follow instructions our number came up at 8:40 and we could leave. Once we were off we saw why it Had become earlier. People who were supposed to leave way before us still hadn’t as their luggage was still in the pick up spot.

We’ve had a wonderful cruise and will definitely do it again. The most outstanding during this trip has been the fantastic crew – friendly, service minded and helpful whenever you had a question.

Now we are back home and I’m so looking forward to enjoy my own bed tonight, especially after last night 😎

Came back to a rainy and cold Tampa 😉
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Cruising – day 5

In the night and early in the morning it rained and there was thunderstorms.

We had buffet for breakfast and sat outside to enjoy the sea. Today is sea day and we are heading back to Tampa.

As the morning was cloudy we took a walk around deck 12 were you can walk outside. Even if we have been aboard we have done some walking. We could have done even more if we had chosen to use the gym but we chose not to 😊

After lunch we sat by the pool and just relaxed and when evening came it was a bit windy. Way to windy for me – we have had wonderful days and it’s sad it has to end like this. Nothing to do about it.

Coffee with a view
The man in charge of our room made us a monkey today
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Cruising – day 4

During the night the ship took us to Nassau, Bahamas and when we woke up and had had breakfast we headed ashore.

Two other cruise ships had also moored, Oasis and Carnival, both being a lot bigger than ours. We hadn’t booked any outings and had decided to walk. We find that we see a lot more doing that besides we needed to move. We have been walking on the ship and used the stairs but we have also enjoyed the good food.

Bahamas belongs to the Commonwealth and a part of their history is British. The Bahamas has also been the home of a lot of buccaneers.

We wanted to see the Queen’s Staircase that was hewn out of solid limestone rock by slaves between 1793 and 1794. As Queen Victoria was the reign the 66 steps was named Queen’s Staircase in honour of her. We also wanted to see the castle to which the steps was the connection between it and the city.

Sadly the Fort Fincastle was closed so we couldn’t see it. It was a lot of places that was closed but the Pirates museum was open. It was a self guided tour within the museum which was very informative.

We talked to the lady running it and she said they had been struggling. For eighteen months there have been no tourists. She decided to open up again in June but haven’t been able to hire her staff back yet.

We did some more walking and I wanted to see the Straw Market but that was also closed. We did see some street vendors but mostly it was the tax-free shops that were open.

The city was in dire need of brush up and there were construction sites everywhere. A lot reminded me of Africa in late 1980s – buses where people went on and of it wherever it was most convenient for them, sidewalks that was nothing more than some soil next to the street, drivers talking to each other through the horn and driving like there was no tomorrow.

Nassau seen from the ship
A statue of Queen Elizabeth l
The staircase – we weren’t the only ones there but the only to take the 15 minutes walk by foot.
A waterfall by the staircase
This was the nicest house on the street, the others had broken windows and falling apart but inhabitants.
Don’t know if it was something special but it was a typical British stone house
Some art work
A huge Presbyterian church
It was a nice house even if it is missing the roof
Entering the museum
Nassau Straw Market
No wonder the buccaneers chose Nassau as their home
Leaving Nassau
Leaving Nassau
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Cruising – Day 3

When we woke up this morning the ship had already moored at CocoCay which is a private island in the Bahamas. It’s the Royal Caribbean Group that owns it.

We took a slow breakfast and then went ashore. We saw that Oasis of the sea also had moored. Our ship can host 2490 people and the Oasis can have 6200 people. The island isn’t big but we decided to take the tram around to see everything before deciding where to go. We ended up on the south beach.

As none of the ships carry more than 50% of their capacity it wasn’t crowded on the island. Plenty of seating at south beach and when we decided to move on later in the day we found new chairs.

As the island is owned by the cruise line food and drinks are free just as in the ship which is convenient as you just have to carry your sea pass.

After enjoying the sea we went to try the biggest fresh water pool in Bahamas. It was big but still just a pool 😊

Shortly before 4 o’clock we went back to the ship. It was nice to get out of the wet swimsuits. A shower and then we went to deck 13 to enjoy the view while waiting for dinner time.

Tonight we had booked the new Japanese restaurant Izumi. It was a lovely sunset while we got our food and enjoyed it. It was by far the best sushi I’ve had. We will go back again tomorrow or Friday as it was soooo nice. The food the other days have been excellent as well but this was outstanding.

The CocoCay Island seen from the ship

Walking off the ship

Oasis and Serenade next to each other
The floating bar at South Beach
The pool
The island has zip line and a water park as well
A G&T before dinner
On our way to dinner
Starters – dumplings and spring rolls
Sushi rolls
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Cruising – day 2

Today was a day at sea going towards CocoCay and we have done very little. Didn’t sleep that well as the beds are a bit uncomfortable. But by 8am we were on our way to breakfast.

After yesterday’s Italian evening we weren’t that hungry, had some fruit and eggs for breakfast before we went to the roof area. Found two chairs but after an hour we needed some hydration.

Went to the pool area where we also found two lounge chairs in the shadow. Spent up to noon there and headed back to our cabin before an Italian lunch.

The afternoon we sat on our balcony and just relaxed, took a walk around the ship and then got ready for dinner. Tonight we had dinner at Chop’s Grille and the food was as nice as yesterday.

If I should tell you about the day in fewer word = food, drinks and sun ☀️

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Cruising – day 1

Today we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Sea for a 6 days cruise. It’s first time doing a cruise and we are still learning.

Getting on the ship was much like boarding a plane with checking in luggage, security check and showing boarding pass and passports. And of course vaccination cards and Covid-test which was more than we did flying here. As they had a lot of crew members it was easy and quick.

First we thought it would be us and a bunch of older people but it’s actually a mix. Families with young children, young adults, middle aged people and old people – apparently we are 1017 guests but the ship can host 2490 people.

After dinner tonight we went outside to see when we where passing Skyway Bridge and then walk around a bit. Went back to our room to sit on our balcony. We got to see them pick up the pilot.

We decided to go and see their shops and art gallery. That was a quick excursion and we decided to go to the Schooner Bar. A older couple came up to us and sat down and started talking. They have done 126 cruises all over the world. Even if they have done several in Europe the man kept mixing up Sweden and Switzerland. They were nice for a while but everything was repeated at least 4 times.

Tomorrow will be a day at sea which means we will eat, drink and sit by the pool more or less.

Looking down from deck 11
Our room
Our room
Our balcony
Looking up from deck 4
Tampa Aquarium and American Victory
Ballast Point and in the very back downtown St Pete
Skyway bridge
Skyway Bridge
Skyway Bridge – a bigger ship would not make it under the bridge
The view from the Sky Bar
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Yesterday we had nothing planned when we all of a sudden were offered tickets to see Tampa Bay Lightning play against Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche was Peter Forsberg’s club for some years, and he was popular because several Avalanche fans were wearing club jerseys with his name on it.

We arrived shortly before they opened the arena and enjoyed the atmosphere outside before going inside. I was wearing to much clothes but in Sweden I would have worn long sleeved shirt, a hoodie, a winter jacket and jeans and still not being warm. This time I was wearing jeans and long sleeves which was great inside but not so much outside.

The game was really nice to watch as they played well and it was tight between the teams. After the third period the score was 3-3 and it was time for overtime which was intense but gave no goals. The game was decided by shoot-outs where Victor Hedman scored.

We had a great evening and to avoid the crowd finding a Uber we walk along the Riverwalk past past Tampa Convention Centre.

Victor Hedman on the wall
This is the guys you see on TV when Bolts play
Clean and lots of options for food and drinks.
National Anthem
The Bolts entering the ice
After a goal for the Bolts
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Cheerleading

Today we went to see cheerleading in Best of the Bay Cheerleading Competition. I think cheerleading is something very American even if it exist elsewhere.

There was no time for the competition, it only said all day. We arrived when they had prize-giving for a couple of teams. But soon it was on with new competitors.

First team were all young but they had one small girl who was adorable. Entering the hall she stopped to look at the crowd in shock. She did all the moves but not when the others did. Her teammates ignored her and afterwards she was so proud.

We didn’t understand the mix between teams but think they might have been in different levels as there was a huge difference in performance.

Would have loved to see the older teams but we didn’t know how long we would have to wait.

Just before the prize-giving
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Davis Island from a roof terrace

Today Peter and I were invited to a gathering with YPO in Tampa. One of the members let them use his roof terrace for this and it was a spectacular view.

We met up with Henrik and Sanne at a place called CW’s Gin Joint downtown Tampa so we could arrive together at Davis Island.

CW’s Gin Joint
Waiting for our drinks at CW’s Gin Joint
CW’s Gin Joint
Monkey 47

When we arrived at the house we were asked if we wanted to use the stairs. I didn’t understand the question until we got upstairs and saw the elevator.

A lot of nice people and hors d’œuvre and drinks. They also had a bartender who taught how to make a few drinks.

We had a lovely evening and both going there and back learnt about fishing and Cuba.

The bartender
Tampa downtown skyline
Across the bay towards S Howard Ave
Down Bayshore Blvd towards where we live.
Part of the roof terrace
Panoramic view when sun is starting to set
We even got a goodie bag so we could create one of the drinks again
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Lunch at Picnic Island

This weekend is a long weekend for Peter as it’s Public holiday and they had Friday off and will also have Monday off. It’s Indigenous People Day which that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.

We did go to the movie on Thursday to watch the new James Bond movie and Friday was a slow day at home. Saturday we went for lunch with some neighbours in St Pete.

Today Peter was installing a hitch on the car because we want to be able to take the bikes with us more easily than stuffing them in the trunk.

While he was doing that I took a long walk before I made a asparagus and broccoli quiche for us to bring to Picnic Island. We took a short walk in the area before we sat down to eat. A lovely day and the breeze from the bay was lovely.

These you can reserve and it’s a great way to get out from the sun and it has seating and tables as well as a barbecue.
You can spot dolphins here but it was to many small boats out today I think.
Downtown St Pete on the other side.
Nice view when eating.
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Octoberfest

Today we were invited by the German community to celebrate the Octoberfest.

We were at the American Legion Post 138 which is situated by the water. We even saw dolphins swimming by.

We had lovely German food and beer but I forgot to take pictures again.

On our way to the Octoberfest
The bridge over to St Pete
We were given badges
All ladies were given a cookie
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Sarasota Historical Downtown became Lake Seminole bike excursion

We did stay the night in Sarasota, we found a nice looking hotel online at a good price. Looked new and situated about 8 minutes drive from downtown Sarasota. We brought our bikes to be able to bike to downtown but due to road works it didn’t work out.

Driving to the hotel I asked Peter if he had booked an Amish hotel. He says no but everywhere around us it said Amish-this and Amish-that. The hotel was in Pinecraft which is an Amish area in Sarasota. The Amish were asked to come and use the land for agricultural reasons in the 1920s and has since become a part of the city.

The hotel was really nice and spacious, the rooms being huge. We had a home cooked breakfast and it was really tasty. I would certainly recommend it.

Carlisle Inn, Sarasota

Saturday we had planned doing the historic downtown but didn’t find it. Well, we found the signs and ended up in what is the historic part. But I guess we are spoiled because 10 houses slightly more than 100 years old was not that impressive.

We decided to head back towards St Pete and instead check Lake Seminole out. Nice park just off a busy area, we unloaded our bikes and biked around the area. The temperature is still high but the humidity is going down which means you can do things without getting completely wet.

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IKEA, coffee and rodeo

When we sold our house I packed some of my kitchen things into our “American” storage and the rest went to the new apartment. I must have, at some point, been thinking that I would bring some of my stuff from the flat as well. Six months later I had forgotten this part and when Peter unpacked our things here he has to buy a few things. Once I arrived I realised I need to add even more. So on Wednesday I went to IKEA – it’s empty!! Not completely but a lot of shelves are out of products. We are still waiting for a cabinet that was supposed to be in again beginning of August and now it’s some time between beginning of September and mid September.

Thursday I met up with some ladies from the base in Hyde Park Village for a coffee. Still restrictions on base for more than 10 in a group. It was nice and it was lovely to sit outside. I’ll surely do it again.

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Anna Maria Island

Today Peter took a day off. Instead of having all the days off from work during the summer he will take days off when we want to do things.

We drove down to Anna Maria Island which is about an hour away from us. We saw parts of the island, beaches and had lunch as well.

Anna Maria Island is a natural barrier island to the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida peninsula. It’s famous for it’s beautiful beaches.

Driving out to the island
Our lunch place
The view from Rod N Reel Pier to the left
The view from Rod N Reel Pier to the right
The view below us. He kept pulling out fishes but threw them back again.
A pelican
Manatee beach
Manatee beach
This bird was struggling with his lunch as long as we were there.
Dipping our feet in the Gulf

As we both had stomach flu earlier this week we took it easy as we felt that we didn’t have fully charged batteries. We will have to go back to see the City Pier as we didn’t do it today.

We have booked a hotel in Sarasota for the night and will do Sarasota tomorrow. But we had dinner in St Armand Circle which is located near Lido Key where we saw the sunset.

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Sunrise and breakfast

Friday morning we met with the other Swedes at Ballast Point Park to see the sunrise and have breakfast.

Peter and I took the bikes as it’s only 4 minutes away from the house. The pier was full of people fishing.

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Operation Helping Hands

I went to Hyde Park Village this morning for some coffee with other spouses. Rain was hanging around but not more than some drops.

I had to leave early as I had a board meeting at lunch time with Rödebygymnasterna. That went well even if our internet is not very good.

In the evening we were invited to a dinner organised by Operation Helping Hands. The started in 2004 to help and assist families of wounded active duty military. If the active duty is wounded and end up at the Veteran hospital in Tampa the family has to provide for themselves. They will get help from Operation Helping Hands who gets contributions from individuals, corporations and associations.

Due to Covid-19 none of the wounded took part in the dinner. Before the pandemic the dinner was held at the veteran hospital but had to be moved. Maybe it will be different in the future.

Peter and I was sitting next to a Vietnam veteran who’s 84 years old. He did 3 tours to Vietnam and retired after 15 years in the armed forces. It was nice talking to them.

The sponsor of this months dinner was the Tampa sheriff’s office. I didn’t take any pictures of the visitors out of respect for them.

Officers from Tampa Sheriff’s department
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Clearwater beach and the Mexican Gulf

Now I’ve been here for 3 months but not seen the gulf or the beaches at Clearwater. We’ve been around the bay but not the other side of the peninsula between the bay and the gulf.

We didn’t bring chairs or bathing suits as we thought it might be crowded as it was Labour weekend. Just took a walk on the beach before we drove south along the small island we ended up at.

We will have to come back another day.

Some mango juice to cool down after the walk.
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Cuban Sandwich Festival – or not

Today we wanted to go to Ybor City and the Cuban Sandwich Festival. We found a parking lot next to 7th Street and found it a bit strange it being empty. Half way down the street I asked Peter if he knew where it was happening as there was few people and no music.

Then he looked it up and it was on the other side of Ybor City by N Nebraska Str and not over by N 21st Str where we parked 🤪 We continued walking and reached it eventually.

If a festival for the Cuban Sandwich means one vendor selling the Cuban Sandwich, one selling shaved ice, two selling hemp products and a few more we found it 😱 After walking 25 minutes in searing sun and the “festival” having no shadow we decided to walk back and have a Cuban sandwich with a cold drink somewhere with A/C 😎

The Cuban Sandwich we had at Carmine’s was very nice.

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Lettuce Lake Park Boardwalk and Nature Trail

Peter and I explored a new place today that is located about 30 min drive north of us.

You entered the area and could then choose several different parking places within the area. From the parking you could walk on tarmac or nature trails and even a boardwalk through the marshes which was neat.

A young alligator
A young alligator
Could only film for 4 sec as there was an obnoxious boy talking loudly the entire time.

The area had several picnic areas – both with roof and without. All easily accessible and could seat quite many.

One of the seating areas

You can also rent canoes if you wish to share the water with alligators and snakes 🤪

We had a lovely morning out and the afternoon we spent at home enjoying the pool.

The tarmac trails
The nature trails

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St Petersburg

Today Peter and I went to St Petersburg for a few hours. We only saw a small part but took a walk at The Pier which was lovely.

The Pier
Nicest restrooms I’ve seen
A playground in the middle of the pier.
If you want to rest with a view
Three restaurants at the end of the pier.
A nice sundial
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A week with no extra happenings

Last week we didn’t do anything special. I spent my days in the pool reading as I was alone most of the time.

Peter has been working since last Sunday, early mornings to late evenings and I’m sure you know why.

Seems like we will have nice weather next week as well. At least warm 😉

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A month in Tampa

Now I have been in Tampa for a whole month but it feels like I left Sweden a long time ago. Life if fairly slow in Florida as we are under new restrictions or rather old one had to be enforced again as people don’t follow them and doesn’t get vaccinated as well. Here they even offers money if you get vaccinated to encourage more people.

Last week we have seen a rise of 300% in covid cases just in our county. Stores and other places ask you to wear a face mask even if you are vaccinated but a lot of people ignores this. Well most people don’t wear the mask correctly anyway but Americans really doesn’t want to be told what to do so a lot of people ignore the request.

I can understand that wearing a mask isn’t very comfortable when it’s 35℃ / 95℉ and hight humidity – I have to confess to having walk through a puddle without seeing as my glasses were all fogged =)

Tuesday we wanted to go to Green Lemon to enjoy their Taco Tuesday but we weren’t the only ones and after seeing the people waiting outside and not finding a parking spot fairly nearby we decided to leave it for another week. Instead we went to Sparkmans Wharf – a really nice place to visit.

From their website: Sparkman Wharf is a dynamic and vibrant piece of Tampa Bay’s downtown waterfront. We’re proud to be one of the top community and cultural destinations in the area, with an effortless blend of loft-style office space and ground-floor retail, along with an intimate dining garden, biergarten, and recreational lawn.The restaurants are located in shipping containers. No entertainment this evening but still it was nice.

Yesterday we went to a preseason game of football and to see the Superbowl Champions. I like to watch American football as it is called in Europe but this game was no good. They did NOT play as champions – it felt more like a practice game. Next time we will try to get tickets for when it is a college game.

A lot of people have a barbecue in the parking lot as well as some never enters the stadium.
On our way up to get some food
Downtown seen from the stadium
Leaving – we thought it might take time to get out of there but it was quicker than getting there.

Even if the arena wasn’t full it is so different to watch a game live or on TV. The atmosphere, the smell and the sound – hard to describe unless you have experienced it. It was the same going to Wembley Stadium or Vicarage Rd Stadium for a soccer (football) game or Twickenham for rugby – it makes a huge difference.

We were waiting for a hurricane to come up from the Caribbean but it took another direction and missed us but today we have no sun at all but still 28℃ / 82℉ outside.

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Sun, food and walk along the Riverwalk

Today I was invited to a welcome lunch by the neighbouring ladies. We went to Salt Shack by the Bay where the setting is wonderful, outside seating and lovely food.

After soaking in the pool for a while we decided to go downtown and take a walk along the Riverwalk.

At the end of it is Armature Works which is an old building from 1910 where the maintenance and storage for Tampa’s Street Cars use to be. Now it has turned in to a mixed-use commercial building which also hosts several restaurants and a large food court.

Arriving at the Armature Works we decided to have dinner there. It was hard to choose what to eat and we will have to go back again to try more 😉

This weekend we also drove to Coppertail Brewery Co. The brewery opened in 2014 in Ybor and they have about 20 different taps. You can eat there as well as book a guided tour in the brewery. We will do that at one point I think – this weekend it was just a short outing.

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A tour around Tampa Bay

Today we took a longer drive going around the Hillborough Bay and down to Mantee to cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

We stopped at the Manatee County Rest area to take a look at the bay and the bridge.

Peter and I with the bridge in the background.

The bridge was built in 1987 and replaced the old bridge that was built in 1954.

We continued to drive north passing St Petersburg and Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Springs has a large population of Greeks or of Greek descendants and a part has turned in to a small Greece.

The first Greeks settled in 1880 as sponge divers. That business is still going along Greek restaurants and tourist’s shops.

We had a nice lunch after taking a walk in the area.

It’s been hot today, the thermostat said 35C/95F but it felt like 40C/105F and it was nice to come home and enjoy the air conditioning to gain normal body temperature again.

We have a lemon tree in the back with 5 lemons on them.

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A calm week in Tampa

I’ve now been here for 17 days but it feels longer. We have had some rain but the weekend have been dry and warm so far.

The other day we went for an ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery where they mix the flavours while you watch – very tasty.

I had Banana Caramel Crunch 😋

And tonight we went to a local outdoor restaurant called Big Ray’s Fish camp and I had blackened Grouper Cheek salad. Grouper belongs to the same family of fish as sea bass and lives in warm salt water. It was very nice but a huge portion. The girl taking our order asked if we were Swedish – she too and she thought she recognised the language. She moved here 10 years ago with her family.

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Circle B Bar or alligator scouting

On Sunday we went east to see some alligators. At Circle B Bar Reserve by Lake Hancock you can walk the trails and you will come across alligators.

At the entrance to the reserve

The trail were you’re most likely to see them was closed today due to them nesting. You’re not recommended to come between an alligator mama and her baby. We saw one gator, a raccoon, a sunbathing turtle and several birds.

The walk was warm but still nice – in and out of the shadow from the trees and some breeze.

By the entrance
Lovely walk on the Oak trail
Dragonfly
Sunbathing turtle
I believe this is some type of Egret
The head and back of an alligator
A Great Blue Heron
I think this is a Little Blue Heron
Lake Hancock
Dragonfly
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Ybor City

Today we went to Ybor City (pronounced Eebor) which is located northeast of downtown Tampa. We were lucky to have some clouds while walking down 7th Street but it was still HOT!!!

The arch at one of the entrances to 7th Street

Ybor City is a National Historic Landmark District and founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor in the 1880s. He along several other cigar manufacturers as well as immigrants from mainly Cuba, Spain and Italy.

7th Street is the home of several restaurants or cigar shops. Ybor City was unique in the south as a successful town almost entirely populated and owned by immigrants.

Beautiful street signs.

We also tried the street car which you can take from Ybor City and down to downtown Tampa and back.

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Coffee morning

Today I went to my first coffee morning with the other spouses. It was the first in a long time apparently as the last one they had was in March last year a couple of days before the base went in lockdown as well as rest of Tampa.

My contribution but picture’s from the internet.

The afternoon was spent in the pool – even I’m starting to enjoy it. Went in twice today 😊

Not a big pool but enough for us
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Driving alone in Tampa

Yeah, today I took the car and went shopping myself.

I found my way there and back but not like Peter showed me 🤪 I was so focused on finding the way avoiding the larger street that I missed it and had to take the larger road. Was easy going there but coming back I couldn’t remember the name of the street I was supposed to be taking so I found a new way 😊

Spent the afternoon in the pool ☀️

First visitor arrived today 😉

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Welcome to Tampa

Now Peter and I have started our next adventure in Tampa. Peter actually arrived already in February. He was home for two weeks to see family and friends and we travelled back together.

The flight between Copenhagen and Washington was long and boring but on time and went smoothly. We had a few hours at Dulles before heading south and everything went nicely until everyone was seated it was time for take off. Apparently a hatch was broken and needed to be fixed and then approved before we could take off. That took three hours sitting in the plane waiting and a two hour flight all of a sudden became a five hour flight. Glad to be picked up at the airport and driven straight home. We went straight to bed and by then we had been up for 24 hours. Not much sleep on the flights either even if the Atlantic flight wasn’t fully booked.

First day was driving around to learn how to find my way around. The street system is fairly easy to remember and traffic similar to London. We also saw some of downtown Tampa before we went grocery shopping.

Along Bayshore towards Tampa downtown.

The next day Peter worked but came home to get me to fix a ID at the MacDill AFB and then later meeting the bank to get a debit card. Later in the evening we took Peter’s assistance to the airport.

Saturday we went to St Petersburg to sign the papers for Peter’s motorbike which should have been delivered several weeks ago. But due to the pandemic the factory had problems to build it in time. We had lunch at the beach and it really felt like being back in Mombasa. Not the best food (good enough) but the atmosphere makes up for it.

The Getaway
The Getaway
You could sit “indoors” if you preferred.
Peter’s enjoying the view
Shrimp ceviche

Today I drove for the first time and did find my way to both places we were going and without the navigator.

Cooling down in the pool
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It’s time to leave London

We have now been here for 3,5 years or rather 1333 days, we have been travelling to Wales, Scotland, Cornwall as well as other places in England. All together we have made about 440 outings while we’ve been here, met a lot of people and gained new friends.

We have enjoyed being here and would have loved to stay longer – we haven’t done everything yet =) But it is time to leave, Felicia have finished her GCSC, Emelie want to apply for university, I have got a permanent position at the school I want to work at and Peter has been offered a really good job back home. It will be nice to be closer to family and old friends but we will be back and visit those of our friends who are still here. The other friends we will visit where they may end up and they are always welcome to come visit us in Sweden.

In a few hours, we are driving on to the ferry taking us to Hook of Holland and tomorrow morning we are driving back to our house. Thank you, UK, for a lovely time and we will never forget you – we will come back and enjoy you even more.

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Buckingham Palace and Royal Mews

Our last outing in UK before heading back to Sweden, Buckingham Palace is only open during the summer when the Queen is not living there. The palace was called Buckingham House when it was built in 1761 by George III for his wife Queen Charlotte. In 1826, it was changed into a palace and Queen Victoria moved in 1837 and since it has been the official residence for the royal family.

The palace has 775 rooms and include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. As the Queen is not at the palace everything has been changed into a display area to also show some of the gifts she has received over the 60 years as a reign.

We also went to the Royal Mews to see the carriages and coaches and we also saw 4 of the horses. They run transportation for the royal family by both cars and horse drawn carriage. They also still train the horses that are used for pulling the royal carriages.

At the mews, we could take pictures but at the palace we weren’t so the pictures are borrowed.

Front of Buckingham Palace

Ball room (royalcollection.org.uk)

Blue Drawing Room (royalcollection.org.uk)

East GalleryBlue Drawing Room_royalcollection.org.uk

Grand Hall (royalcollection.org.uk)

Grand Staircase (royalcollection.org.uk)

Buckingham Palace garden

Two of the horses we saw today

Royal Mews

The girls infront of the Semi-state Landau

Queen Alexandra’s state coach built in 1865

Irish state coach exhibitied in 1851

The glass coach acquired in 1911 for the coronation of King George V

Scottish state coache was originally built in 1830

One of the royal cars

 

Gold state coach

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Museum day with the girls

Today the girls and I had a day at Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A Museum. Peter was also supposed to come along but as we are moving in a few days he was fitting the car roof box yesterday and saw that the fittings don’t match the roof rack…. Well he didn’t look very sad when we left him.

All museums are too big to do all of it and frankly 3000 stones don’t interest me that much. At the Natural History Museum, we saw the dinosaurs and the earth exhibition and at Science we did Engineer you future and Who am I but wanted to do Mathematics: The Winton Gallery as well but didn’t want to go up the stairs again when we came down.

We took a quick visit to V&A Museum as well but by then the girls where done with museums and we left. They did have energy for some shopping so we went to do that before returning home. A nice but warm day!

On our way into the middle of the earth

Dinousaur at Natural History Museum (well not the girls)

The world at Science Museum

Reading at Who I am

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Battle of Britain bunker again

Today I had booked a visit to the Battle of Britain bunker in Uxbridge for Peter, some colleagues and friends. The only reason this bunker has been preserved is because it was still used up until 1974 when it was closed but someone was clever enough to suggest it would be kept as a memory of the battle.

We saw the table where they had some idea of where the enemy’s and their own planes where, how it was done and everyone’s duty, visitors such as Churchill and all the activities going on. We also saw a documentary done in 1990 with pilots that was on active duty during the battle. Sadly, they are no longer around but it’s great that they did the recording when they did.

When we were done our group went for lunch at the White Bear in Ruislip where we had a lovely lunch before everyone had to head back to work or free time.

A replica made out of plastic as the real one was used for spareparts

The map where they could see where the enemy where but as well where their own pilots.

The board where they could see which squadrons that were ready to fight or needed to return to base.

 

Children were sent to the country side to survive the bombings of London

Famous word from Mr Churchill

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Middle Temple Hall Lunch

After been to the Middle Temple Hall and seen the impressing hall, where they serve lunch every day for members and guests, we decided to go there for lunch. It was a three-course lunch and a salad buffet as well – today they served pumpkin soup or pea soup as a starter, for the main course you could choose between steak with roasted potatoes, fish & chips or a vegetarian dish and for dessert there where 3 different cakes (chocolate, lemon and carrot) as well as fresh fruit and berries. If we could have eaten more we could also have cheese.

The lady who showed us to our seats became our private informer, we asked her several questions about the hall but also about the main table and the only table with a white tablecloth. It is only high court judges who are allowed to sit by the main table and if they want to have lunch with their wife or other guests they have to sit by the table with the white table cloth.

 

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Spencer House tour

Today I visited the Spencer house.

From its conception Spencer House was recognised as one of the most ambitious and splendid private palaces ever built in London and is today the city’s only great eighteenth-century house to survive intact.

They started building it 1756 and was done by 1766, the 1st Earl of Spencer ordered it and the land is still owned by the Spencer family (Lady Diana’s family).

Some of the pictures are from their website.

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V&A Museum tour

Today I was at the V&A Museum and got a guided tour through the British Galleries.

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Yearly visitors are here again =)

Evelina, Helen, Henke and Hampus flew with me back to London after I had helped my parents. We have had a few fantastic days together again and now they have returned to Sweden.

Me at SkyGarden

Felicia and Evelina at SkyGarden

Henke, Helen, Evelina and Hampus at SkyGarden

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Been helping my parents

Went 10 days to Sweden and helped my parents to pack as they are moving out of their house and into a flat. Found a lot of things I thought were gone a long time ago.

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Benjamin Franklin House

Today I visited Ben Franklin house, where Benjamin Franklin lived between 1757 and 1775. While lodging at 36 Craven Street, Franklin’s main occupation was mediating unrest between Britain and America, but he also served as Deputy Postmaster for the Colonies; pursued his love of science (exploring bifocal spectacles, the energy-saving Franklin stove); explored health (inoculation, air baths, cures for the common cold); music (inventing the glass armonica for which Mozart, Bach and Beethoven composed) and letters (articles, epitaphs, and his witty Craven Street Gazette), all while forging a hearty social life and close friendships with leading figures of the day.

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Middle Temple Hall

Today I visited Middle Temple Hall which is one of the four ancient Inns of Court. Inns of Court are the professional associations for barristers (lawyers) in England and Wales. All barristers must belong to one such association. They have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. The Inns also provide libraries, dining facilities and professional accommodation. It is a self-contained precinct where barristers traditionally train and practice.

Middle Temple Hall was built between 1562 and 1573 and remains virtually unchanged to this day having survived the Great Fire of London and both World Wars. Middle Temple has one of the finest examples of an Elizabethan hall in the England with a double hammer beam roof carved from the oak of Windsor Forest and an elaborately carved screen made in 1574.

It was a fantastic tour and I will go back to have lunch there and make sure I visit the Temple Church nearby.

The entrance

The lamb and flag is the emblem of Middle Temple

The double hammer beam roof

One side of the Elizabethan hall with the carved screen

The Elizabethian hall

One of many nicely decorated chairs

The carved screen made in 1574 in the hall. The stained glass windows were removed at the beginning of WWII and stored. There was damage during the war to the window and the screen. All parts of the screen were gathered up after the WWII destruction and reassembled.

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Burn’s night 2017

Again we went to NHQ mess for the Burn’s Night where we had a three-dinner-course with haggis as a middle course. A fun evening in good company again!

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Whitechapel Bell Foundry

 

Today Peter and I went on a guided tour at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Whitechapel Bell Foundry, known to be established in 1570, is the oldest manufacturing company in the UK. Bells of all sorts and sizes are manufactured, ranging from large church bells to musical hand bells, ship’s bells, level crossing warning bells, and a wide range of small bells for domestic clocks, pocket watches and musical boxes.

Two very famous bells came from this Bell Foundry: A bell originally cast at the Foundry in 1752 for the State House in Philadelphia and later known as the Liberty Bell and in 1858 they cast Big Ben, a 13,5-ton hour Bell at the Palace of Westminster.

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Poppy Factory visit

We went to visit the Poppy Factory in Richmond who supports ex-servicemen/women who has been injured or disabled in war. They get help to find a new career and some of them work in the factory but they do help a lot more.

It’s a charity and has been around since 1922 when they started by helping the servicemen returning from World war 1. They make the royal wreaths and other wreaths that are laid down on Remembrance Sunday.

It was really interesting to listen to and really nice to see how the poppies are made – we even got to make our own.

 

 

 

The entrance to the Poppy factory

The machine cutting the petals for the poppy

Another cutting machine

The Royal Navy wreath

The original cross for the unknown soldier

The founder of the Poppy Factory – Major George Howson MC

The Royal wreaths – The Queens, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry

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A cold evening in January

Tonight I gathered my friends for another guided pub tour – as always a fantastic evening. Thanks for coming!

The Golden Boy of Pie Corner

Canadian and Swedish friends

Colleen’s gin & tonic at The Viaduct Tavern

Swedish and American friends

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Skiing in Sweden

This year we didn’t stay in Northwood to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve but went to northern Sweden to go skiing with Peter’s side of the family. His parents as well as his sister with her family had all driven to Björnrike to ski and celebrate Christmas.

The weather was lovely and even if I didn’t ski we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the lovely surroundings.

We drove down to our hometown to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends before we headed south to my family and then go back to London.

Beautiful sun set

We saw reindeers when driving to the resort

Peter and Felicia in the slopes

Another sun set

The girls <3

Even Santa was out skiing

The slop system at the resort

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Christmas Walk in London

I had a nice walk in a Christmassy London today.

A stiletto in Golden Square

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Northwood Liberal Synagogue

After my English class today, I joined the tour at Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue. Very interesting!


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Winter Ball 2016

We had a wonderful time at the Winter Ball at the NHQ. The girls thought the best was the chocolate fountain =)

We weren’t really impressed by the reindeer they had by the entrance

White chocolate fountain enjoyed by the girls

Peter and I at the dining table

Mary, me and Colleen